Cybercrime remains one of the most common and severe risks facing organizations of all sizes and industries. By 2025, global cybercrime damages are expected to reach $10.5 trillion per year — and, by next year, U.S. damages could reach $6 trillion, according to data from Cybersecurity Ventures

But tackling this so-called “hackerpocalypse” isn’t a one-person or one-team effort — nor is it something you can effectively manage solely through reactive measures or ad-hoc processes. To stave off threats and protect your organization, you need to develop a culture of security. And that starts with a security culture assessment.

Today, we’re delving into what an assessment looks like and how you can perform your own.

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What is a Security Culture Assessment?

Organizations use self-assessments to gauge all sorts of elements of their business — like, for example, employee satisfaction and inclusivity. These assessments help companies unearth potential issues before they become too widespread or cause irreparable damage to the organization.

A security culture assessment follows the same basic premise and usually includes two parts:

  • A questionnaire for leadership and/or the entire workforce that asks questions like, “On a scale of 1 to 5, how aware are you of the organization’s cybersecurity policies?” Or “True or False: Cybersecurity is factored into decisions made within every department.”
  • Existing data about threats and risk, such as how many times the company has encountered a threat in the past year and average response time to security events.

This qualitative and quantitative data can help you understand where you’re most vulnerable so you can begin making necessary improvements. For example, if you determine that only a small percentage of employees are aware of cybersecurity policies, that’s a clear message you need to hold an educational session.

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How to Perform a Self-Assessment of Your Security Culture

There are six steps to performing a security culture assessment:

  • Prepare your materials
    Start by creating your questionnaire. The questions you’ll ask will depend on who you’re surveying, but we recommend surveying your entire organization and asking them about various relevant habits. Here are a few sample questions:

          a) In this organization, security is a top priority: Agree, Neutral, Disagree
          b) If I encounter a security threat, I know who to notify: Yes or No
          c) How often do you change your password: Monthly, Quarterly, Annually, Never

In addition to the questionnaire, consider how you’ll gather other data, like how many threats you’re encountering and which departments are the least or most engaged in your culture of security. (This is where a threat intelligence solution can help.)

  • Define your metrics
    Next, you need to determine how you’ll measure your security culture. For example, you might measure how many threats your company encountered in a given period. Also, be sure to create a rubric for your questionnaire and set baselines for your data.
  • Conduct the assessment
    Field your survey and begin collecting your data. It’s important most (if not all) of your workforce complete the questionnaire, or you won’t have an accurate assessment.
  • Analyze your results
    Take time to examine the data. Are employees committed to helping your organization combat cybercrime, or are they still mostly uninformed? Is leadership doing their part to set the right examples? Are there certain teams performing better than others and, if so, why?
  • Make improvements
    A security culture assessment will help you uncover weak spots within your organization and highlight areas for improvement. In some cases, seeing all the vulnerabilities and lack of understanding within a company can be disappointing. But, the good news is, this data helps illuminate a path to a stronger and more resilient organization.
  • Repeat
    Repeat this process regularly. Consider fielding the questionnaire at least once per year. When you invest in a threat intelligence solution like HackNotice, you’ll also have the ability to check performance as often as you’d like. And because each employee will be notified when their data has been compromised, they can clean up their own mistakes — rather than adding more work to your overburdened security team.

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At first, conducting a self-assessment can seem like a significant undertaking. But when you consider the cost of not building a culture of security — and the widespread destruction and disruption a hack can cause to your business — you’ll realize it’s an essential investment. Without taking the time to conduct a security culture assessment, you’ll likely remain blind to crucial problem areas. And cultures that aren’t built purposefully degrade over time, leading to further security implications.

By regularly assessing your culture and addressing problem areas, you’ll be better prepared to defend your organization against ever-growing cybercrime.