How to Avoid Cybersecurity Fatigue

Cybersecurity fatigue is a decrease in cybersecurity awareness and a subsequent increase in risky behavior. Here’s how to counteract the effect.

Many organizations struggle to manage cybersecurity threats. This may be due to the fact that, in an increasingly digitized world, the attack surface is growing constantly, and cyber criminals are getting more persistent and resourceful every year.

The challenge of protecting businesses against cyber threats is made harder by a shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals and the mind-boggling array of possible cybersecurity solutions being offered as a silver bullet.

The fact that cybersecurity is becoming a key business challenge has led some people to bury their heads in the sand, ignore the risks and postpone important investment decisions.

The term cybersecurity fatigue is used to describe a decrease in cybersecurity awareness and a subsequent increase in risky behavior. Cybersecurity fatigue is experienced by users who are overwhelmed by the need to stay alert to the latest threats.

A good example of cybersecurity fatigue is employees re-using the same password across accounts — users know they shouldn’t do it, but often can’t be bothered to use different credentials. And it’s not just users that are affected. A recent report found that even cybersecurity professionals can be at risk of suffering security fatigue.

Thankfully there are steps that any business can take to reduce the risk of cybersecurity fatigue setting into office culture. Here are five ways that you can avoid cybersecurity fatigue.

1. Share cybersecurity responsibilities

It is important to remember that cybersecurity is not purely the responsibility of the IT team. In fact, it is the case that all employees — from board level down — have a responsibility to protect your organization.

Assuming that the IT department will handle all cybersecurity-related issues not only adds to the risk of cybersecurity fatigue, it also puts too much pressure on a small number of employees, worsening the problem.

The whole of your organization needs to come together to meet the challenge of constantly evolving cybersecurity threats.

2. Conduct regular security training (and keep it fresh)

It is widely held  that organizations need to provide cybersecurity training to their staff, however it is also vital that any training provided is engaging, relevant and constantly updated. You should keep refreshing your security training to ensure that your employees stay knowledge about the risks facing the business.

One interesting way to do this is to commission a simulated social engineering attack or red team engagement. This exercise will mirror the kind of attack techniques used by cyber criminals and can be used to test the effectiveness of the controls and procedures. Assessments can help to raise awareness of good and bad practice and reveal where improvements need to be made.

4. Consult with cyber experts

It is a good idea to consult with cybersecurity experts. They can help relieve the pressure on your IT team by providing advice and guidance to ensure that you make the right security investments, as well as helping to manage the everyday challenges that you face.

It is unfortunately the case that many organizations invest in technologies that prove to be simply unsuitable. Alternatively, the investment may be sound, but the company doesn’t understand the kind of day-to-day management required for the technology to be effective. As described in this interview with a cyber aware development team, cybersecurity is an integral part of any design or software development process — and must be considered from the offset.

For example, many security technologies generate hundreds of security alerts that need to be investigated and acted upon. If this process is not streamlined and efficient, it will inevitably lead to alert fatigue if staff lack the necessary experience to manage them effectively.

Security experts will operate as an extension of your in-house resources and, by delivering services such as 24/7 network and endpoint monitoring, help to ease the strain on your in-house team so that they can focus on other important tasks.

4. Learn from the mistakes of others

Rather than ignoring news reports of breaches, it is vital that your business should learn from them. Whilst it can feel overwhelming given the huge number of breaches that occur so regularly, staying up-to-date can help to keep employees knowledgeable about the types of risks that your organization can face. Understanding where other organizations have gone wrong, means you can avoid making the same mistakes.

5. Regularly review your cybersecurity

With the cybersecurity landscape changing so rapidly, it is important to regularly assess the security posture of your organization. You should conduct risk and vulnerability assessments every few months. This work should be supported by penetration testing, which can help to identify hidden weaknesses and vulnerabilities across networks, systems and applications.

You should ensure that the findings of the reviews are reported to the highest level of your organization so that they are understood and acted upon.

Mike James is a UK-based cybersecurity professional and regular author, working together with penetration testing specialists Redscan on this and a series of other cybersecurity articles.

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