I have recently been writing a series of articles that tackle the various questions CEOs should be asking their teams when it comes to cybersecurity prevention. Previously I’ve written about how organisations are managing risks, the evolution of the budget and understanding the top five risks or high-risk areas within the business. In this article I am going to address why CEOs should have training and safety programmes in place and prioritise them accordingly.
When I work with CEOs, I like to use a safety programme within an organisation as a parallel to a cybersecurity programme. There are a number of industries where having a safety programme is required. While NOT required by all industries it is certainly a good idea for all companies to have one.
A Plan for Safety
I once had a manager who previously managed a safety programme for a small trucking firm. The company had under-invested in its prevention of accidents, training and awareness, and managing driver sleep time between shifts. The risk of under investment was raised numerous times without the appropriate action being taken. An incident finally occurred involving a gas truck, an overpass, and a Volvo heading home. The results of this accident were devastating.
A cyber incident can have very kinetic results including loss of life, loss of customers, damaged reputation, stolen data, business up-time or a class action lawsuit. The threat of a cyberattack is very real. Ensuring your employees are aware and understand their role in securing your organisation is a great way to decrease your risk of an incident.
By the way, the trucking firm went out of business as a result of litigation. This was an actual worst-case scenario for them.
Safety is a programme that requires management and training. It is a culture in an organisation which needs to be nurtured and supported. Companies with a culture of safety make it visible to the entire organisation. However I am sorry to say that we don’t often adopt the same approach with cybersecurity.
To create a culture of safety in an organisation, time and resources are spent to ensure people are properly equipped and trained in procedures and understand how to prevent incidents, as well as what to do in the event of an incident.
When I served in the Marine Corps, safety was drilled over and over and we were also shown videos as well as given training. These videos showed us the accidents. They talked about what went right and what went wrong. We drilled into the scenarios so that we not only understood but were prepared.
One particular scenario that really stood out for me with regard to safety planning was when I was stationed on an aircraft carrier as a Marine. We first watched a video of the U.S.S. Forrestal blazing away as a jet-fuel fire began lighting off live ammunition. That video led to endless firefighting simulation drills. Yes, as a Marine, I threw on firefighting gear and grabbed hoses. Even the Marines had a job firefighting in the event of a fire. It was part of our culture on board and part of our daily lives. Incidentally, we later had two fires: an F-18 that caught the wrong wire and an on-board fire. Neither resulted in anything more than a bit more training and no loss of life. This shows that training and constant awareness works.
These are all qualities that a cybersecurity programme should share. Safety is everyone’s responsibility. So is cybersecurity. As the CEO, you don’t need to know all of the ins and outs of the programme, but knowing if everyone in the organisation has gone through it is a good start. Your team should also have specific training for you, the executive team, and the board. You should go through the training and ask any questions that come up. Your team should be constantly educating the entire organisation to help ensure your Commander’s Intent for Cyber Security is being carried out.
To create the culture in your organisation you, as the leader, should find a way to communicate the importance of cybersecurity. Start by filming a video message and sharing this with your employees.
We all know that people are the key to any successful organisation. People are also the key to a successful cybersecurity programme. Ensuring they are aware and well trained will keep you out of the headlines and ahead of your competition. So make sure that as the CEO you put the right emphasis on training and having the appropriate safety programmes in place.