12:36 PM

Security Talk: 7 Ways To Make Users Listen

Zeus reboot underscores the fundamental cause of many security breaches: Human error. Here's how to keep users listening when you talk security.

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Privacy might be all but dead. That's no excuse for poor security.

Yet the gap between ambition and execution is often wide when it comes to keeping the corporate perimeter secure. The usual culprit: human error. As the recent reappearance of the Zeus banking malware reminds us, the next expensive breach is only an employee click away. Malware, phishing emails and similar schemes thrive because people make mistakes.

You know the importance of educating staff, enforcing policies and deploying strong security technologies to backstop your training and awareness efforts. You know people need help to steer clear of phishing emails and similar scams. You're well aware that social sites are fertile ground for malicious links and social engineering attacks. The pain is that no one seems to listen to your well-intentioned preaching on security best practices. And when they do listen, they seem to forget 15 minutes later.

[ What's your worst security nightmare? Read Ransomware, Social Scams Lead 2013 SMB Security Fears. ]

How do you get the word out and make sure your users are actually paying attention? For starters, give those emailed security bulletins a rest.

"End users rarely read security emails -- and comprehension decreases with length," said Nate Ulery, head of the IT infrastructure and operations practice at West Monroe Partners, in an email interview. "IT organizations should focus on alternate means of consistently getting the message out to their employees."

If not email, then how? Ulery offered this advice for getting your security messages across.

1. Use The Corporate Intranet Or Internal Social Network.

Quick, ad-like images on the company intranet, social site or other internal Web presences are a good place to start, Ulery said. Any pages that offer customizable messaging and images are worth considering -- providing employees actually visit them regularly. (If the intranet hasn't been updated since 2009, skip to tip number two.)

2. Screensavers: No More Baby And Cat Pictures.

Some users might grumble, but Ulery advises a required, custom corporate screensaver. It's desirable real estate for corporate communications and marketing, company goals and values, and a healthy dose of IT training and security messages.

3. Decorate The Water Cooler -- Or The Water Closet.

Use old-school signage as a means of regular, repetitive security reminders. "Brief, graphical and comical signs on common-area doors work well," Ulery said. "A little humor in a sign hanging above the bathroom sink will be more memorable and effective than a boring, technical email."

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/3/2013 | 7:12:13 PM
re: Security Talk: 7 Ways To Make Users Listen
Using flash-based games as a training tool - when properly hosted on your internal network - can be an effective way to reinforce messaging. It is also important to incorporate an engaging "story" and strong "teachable moments" as part of the game.
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