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Creating a Cyber Resilient Culture: A Short Guide to Organizational Cybersecurity

Cyber-attacks are recognised as one of the leading threats facing US businesses today, with 30% of respondents in a recent survey citing cyber incidents as the greatest threat to businesses. Last year, cybercrime losses in the USA reached an all-time high of $10.3 billion, according to the FBI’s internet crime complaints center, and there are growing fears that small to mid-sized businesses are fast becoming the principal targets of the cybercriminals.

In the context of the grave and worsening cybersecurity picture, SMBs are under increasing pressure to formulate a robust and comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. This is not only a data protection imperative, but also helps to defend businesses from the financial impact, reputational harm, and severe operational disruption that can unfold following a cyber breach incident. So how should you start building that cybersecurity framework, and what elements should it contain to ensure your business remains rigorously defended against the cyber bad guys?

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Cybercrime is a very real and growing threat, and no business is immune to its dangers. Implementing the right cybersecurity tools, and securely configuring systems and hardware is of paramount importance when developing a cybersecurity strategy, but technology isn’t the only factor in maintaining vigorous cyber defenses.

Cybersecurity measures can, broadly speaking, be subdivided into two categories: “organizational” and “technical” controls.

Technical controls refer to the technological protections we’re all familiar with – or at least aware of. This could refer to any form of hardware, software or configuration-based element designed to mitigate against online threats, and safeguard sensitive data. Encryption protocols, 2-factor authentication, anti-malware software and firewalls are just some of the technical defenses businesses can implement.

Organizational controls refer to procedural and policy-based aspects of cybersecurity, that typically rely on some degree of end user compliance and good practice. Building a cyber-secure framework involves achieving a constructive synergy between technological protections, and the equally vital organizational aspects of cybersecurity.

To help you get started in assessing or improving upon your cybersecurity posture, this article is intended to act as a short guide to the organizational cybersecurity elements all businesses should implement. By exploring the following security measures, you’ll help equip your business with the policies, practices, and threat awareness necessary to deflect and mitigate the most common cyber threats.

Cybersecurity Policies

Cybersecurity policies are rules and guidelines that set out the duties and responsibilities of employees in terms of maintaining the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information held and processed within digital systems. They are also commonly referred to as “information security policies.”

Essentially, a cybersecurity policy is a document that applies to a business process or data handling activity that subjects information to distinctly heightened risk. Ground rules, in the form of instructions, recommendations and best practices, are outlined to ensure data processors understand the role they play in maintaining information security.

So what sort of processes, activities and environments should cybersecurity policies pertain to?

Think about where and how data is handled across your business, and try to identify situations where staff compliance is central to maintaining the security, confidentiality and integrity of information. There are no hard and fast rules for what should fall under the scope of cybersecurity policies, but here are some common examples:

Acceptable Use Policy

An acceptable use policy is an overarching cybersecurity policy that sets out guidance and instructions for employees when interacting with digital technology resources. The goal of such a policy is to ensure employees understand their role in supporting the business’s cybersecurity posture, and the types of behavior that are not permitted when handling information and accessing digital systems. While “acceptable use” is primarily a cybersecurity safeguard, the policy can also be used to promote workplace productivity, by prohibiting the use of IT assets for personal errands, socialising and other activities that don’t constitute professional or productive conduct.

Data Handling and Protection Policy

A data handling and protection policy contains rules and guidance designed to ensure the ongoing confidentiality and integrity of sensitive information across its lifecycle. Such a policy is useful for any business that handles PII (personally identifiable information), but it’s particularly vital if you store and process highly sensitive information such as financial account information and healthcare records. The policy should help employees identify and classify information types that require elevated protection, and assign appropriate protections and handling restrictions on each type, as appropriate. Procedures and guidelines should be set out relating to the storage, transmission, handling and disposal of information, and roles and responsibilities for information protection should be assigned to support transparency and accountability.


Digital Communication Policy

A digital communication policy should guide staff on the secure and appropriate use of digital communication tools, including email and messaging tools, and provide guidance on internet safety more broadly. Best practices featured in such a policy might include a prohibition on the download and installation of unauthorized software, restrictions on the use of email for personal or social purposes, and ID verification procedures to determine the legitimacy of email-based requests.

Formatting Cybersecurity Policies

As mentioned, the cybersecurity policies you create depend on the specific nature of your data handling activities, and should account for any scenarios that present acute data security risks. Consider using the following 4-part format to give your policies a consistent structure, and to ensure they convey information in a clear and helpful manner.

Introduction and overview

Give your policy a title, briefly explain its objectives, and set out a table of contents to help readers navigate to the information they need.

Policy Components

Set out the policies scope, by making reference to the systems, networks and information assets it seeks to safeguard.

Set out roles and responsibilities. Include named persons responsible for actioning or enforcing the policy, this could include employees, IT staff or key business stakeholders. Leave no room for doubt, and ensure that all relevant persons understand their duties in terms of supporting your cybersecurity aims.

Operational Guidelines

Outline the controls, practices and procedures that are required to be observed in order to deliver on the policies aims.

Set out any data classification and secure handling protocols, and stipulate the use of encryption and other protections necessary to maintain data privacy. Include any requirements for cybersecurity awareness training, and mandate ongoing learning and testing as deemed appropriate, to maintain awareness of cyber threats. Lastly, define incident response and reporting procedures to ensure that cyber incidents can be carefully investigated, and any necessary improvements brought in.

Compliance and Continuous Improvement

Iterate your organisation’s commitment to regulatory compliance, and demonstrate how your compliance obligations relate to cybersecurity.

Set out a timeframe for policy reviews and updates, and assign responsibility for policy maintenance to a named individual. This will help foster a climate of continuous improvement that ensures your cybersecurity policies adapt and evolve with changes to your business.

Cybersecurity Awareness Training

End user actions are a leading cause of cyber breaches, with around 80% thought to be attributable to human error resulting from poor cybersecurity awareness. Cybersecurity awareness training will help your staff recognize and foil the most common cyber threats, and give them the skills and knowledge necessary to act in your business’s cybersecurity interests.

Awareness training programs often cover a range of topics, from password security and malware awareness to safe web browsing and mobile device security. Online educational content can be tailored around the specific needs of your business, and concise e-learning modules make it easy to fit learning around busy schedules.

Phishing Awareness Training

Phishing attacks are by far the most prolific form of online crime, accounting for an incredible 90% of all data breaches. Phishing attacks are usually low-tech and opportunistic, relying largely on deception and manipulation. With an estimated 3.4 billion malicious emails sent each day, phishing should be your number one priority when it comes to fostering a cyber-aware culture among staff. It’s such a pressing threat, that we’ve compiled the following brief guide to phishing to get you started.

How do Phishing Scams Operate?

Phishing is a form of “social engineering attack” whereby scammers use deception and manipulation to coax their victims into revealing sensitive information or executing a payment. Alarming language designed to prompt impetuous action is a common feature, with scams often designed to trigger distress, fear, alarm or excitement in the victim. Phishing scammers will often assume the identity of a trusted person or organization in order to obtain credibility, and give their scheme the greatest chance of success.

Phishing attacks are a persistent cybersecurity concern for businesses, due to the fact that they can’t be effectively mitigated by technical measures alone. Criminals have the ability to evade common email filtering technologies, which means end users form the last line of defense against these harmful acts of deception.

Phishing awareness training programs will familiarise your team with the techniques and format of phishing scams, and phishing simulations can be deployed to test learning outcomes and drive continuous improvement. In the meantime, here are some actionable tips to help protect your business against phishing:

  • Leave suspicious attachments alone. Unless you can reliably verify the sender, never open email attachments, particularly if you weren’t expecting to receive it. For enhanced security, avoid distributing files by email altogether, and explore options for cloud-based document storage, which is far safer and more convenient.
  • If something feels amiss, don’t hit “reply.” Whether it’s the tone of a message, the nature of a request, or the time at which the message was sent, if ANYTHING about an email seems unusual, get in touch with the sender via the “new email” button and enter an email address you know to be legitimate.
  • Be very suspicious of requests for sensitive information. Legitimate organizations almost never make requests for sensitive information via email. If you appear to get an email from your bank, insurer, or some other service provider, requesting that you provide your account credentials, make contact with the institution directly through legitimate, sanctioned channels. Again, don’t press “reply.”
  • Perform Email header Inspection. Doctoring an email’s “sender” field is a remarkably simple process for a determined scammer. Doing so can make an email appear – at least on the surface – to come from a legitimate source. By learning how to inspect email headers, you’ll be able to view each email’s origin, helping you determine whether the sender is who they claim to be.
  • Proceed slowly and cautiously. Phishing scammers don’t want their victims to consider the security implications of their actions. As such, they’ll often use fear tactics or a sense of urgency to elicit a fast, unconsidered response. Take great care and employ scepticism with any email that demands you “act now to claim your prize” or “take action now to avoid disastrous consequences.”

Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Planning

Cybersecurity mostly focuses around risk management: taking proportionate and measured action to mitigate cyber threats and maintain data integrity. While prevention is better than cure, it’s also important to be prepared should a security incident, natural disaster or some other environmental factor compromise your business’s digital systems.

A business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) strategy gives your business a tailored plan of action for minimising the impact of disruptive events, and recovering critical business functions as quickly as possible to limit operational impact. A BCDR strategy should aim to contain the spread of harm, secure sensitive information to avoid further compromise, and restore full system operability in a way that protects your commercial interests.

A BCDR strategy is essential to maintaining a resilient cybersecurity posture, and represents a critical organizational measure that all businesses should implement. Consider the following elements when constructing a BCDR strategy for your business.

Risk Analysis

A thorough risk identification and analysis process should be carried out to determine the greatest and most operationally critical threats facing your business. The findings of this process should be used to steer your BCDR strategy, enabling you to focus efforts and resources on acute operational risks in order to alleviate them.


Your BCDR strategy should contain clear and precise objectives, detailing the systems and resources that fall under the plan’s scope, and setting out recovery time targets for their reinstation. By ranking objectives in order of importance, you can ensure that attention is focussed on recovering your most critical systems and resources.


Data Recovery Mechanisms

Your BCDR strategy should include detailed guidance on the functioning of recovery systems, specifically addressing how staff should utilize data backup services. Clearly outline roles and responsibilities, designating ‘plan leaders’ who will spearhead your business’s journey to recovery.

Maintaining Readiness

The strategy should include provisions designed to test the effectiveness of the recovery plan in practice and maintain ongoing staff readiness. This may involve periodic training exercises or recovery simulations designed to mimic real-world incidents. Testing and simulations allow for the identification and resolution of deficiencies in the plan before a real-world event, ensuring that staff are empowered to play an active and effective role in the recovery of your business.

Redundancy Systems

Your BCDR strategy should provide clear guidance on the utilization of redundancy systems, including backup network connections, auxiliary power and internet connections, and cloud services. Additionally, it should incorporate solutions designed to facilitate remote working, ensuring operational effectiveness in the event that your business premises become functionally inaccessible.

In Summary

There are no quick wins when it comes to cybersecurity. Developing an effective strategy to address cyber risk means developing robust policies, procedures and practices, and interlacing these organizational elements with effective modern technical measures. By fostering heightened cyber awareness, developing sound security policies and crafting a comprehensive BCDR strategy, you’ll give your business a solid foundation from which to pursue cybersecurity excellence.

Coastal IT Support in Southeast, Brunswick

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Managing IT infrastructure complexities can be daunting and detract from your core business goals. That’s where Coastal’s expertise in providing exceptional IT support in Brunswick, Southeast, becomes indispensable. With our wealth of experience and tailored solutions designed for the Brunswick area, we seamlessly address all your IT needs, allowing you to focus on driving success for your business. Coastal IT Support Southeast is dedicated to empowering and securing your business in Brunswick and throughout the Southeast!

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