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Your employees are not reporting security issues fast enough… and most don’t at all

Why Employees Fail to Report Cybersecurity Issues

Arthur Gaplanyan

Employee Cyber Reporting

Is your cybersecurity all set? Yes? Good.

(If your answer isn’t yes then you should give me a call so I can help you 😊)

What about security issues your team comes across? They get reported, right? …Right?

Maybe you’ve never thought about this side of it before. This aspect is critical though. You can have an arsenal of security measures in place, but statistics show that a concerning amount of cybersecurity incidents don’t get reported fast enough – if at all.

What kind of scope are we talking about here?

Less than 10% get reported timely. Some reports show only 2.1% of known attacks get reported. Yikes!

Is Reporting Really Necessary?

You’ve got cybersecurity services in place, so is it really a big deal? Short answer: Yes.

Not reporting incidents means that the opportunity to swiftly respond gets missed, potentially allowing attackers more time and chances to exploit vulnerabilities.

Think about it, if somebody sees a phishing email and realizes it’s an attack so they DON’T fall for it, then things must be all good. But not reporting it might mean that somebody else falls for the same tactic.

Without timely reports, IT departments cannot address and mitigate threats quickly, leaving systems vulnerable for longer periods.

Unreported incidents can escalate, leading to significant data breaches that compromise sensitive information, damaging an organization’s reputation and customer trust.

The financial impact of data breaches can be enormous, encompassing not just direct losses but also fines, legal fees, and costs related to mitigating the breach.

Why Cybersecurity Issues Don’t Get Reported

You can see how failing to report cybersecurity issues can have severe consequences for your business. Why wouldn’t somebody report it? Well, it typically happens for a few reasons.

Lack of Awareness

In many cases, employees simply do not know the proper procedures for reporting security incidents. They might be unaware of who to contact or what details are necessary to report.

Is that process clearly defined for your business? Ask yourself, do you know how to report an incident? If it’s foggy in any way then it’s absolutely unclear to everybody else.

Fear of Retribution

Many employees fear that reporting a mistake, such as falling for a phishing scam, could lead to disciplinary action or even job loss. This fear discourages them from coming forward, exacerbating the problem by allowing potential breaches to go unaddressed.

Like my prior example, if I didn’t fall for the phishing email then there is no threat and it’s no big deal. Until it is.

Uncertainty About Incident Significance

Employees might also underreport because they do not recognize the importance of seemingly minor incidents.

They might think that unusual system behavior or a suspicious email is not worth reporting unless it leads to a significant issue.

The Bystander Effect

Another cause has been dubbed the bystander effect. This happens when many people face the same issue.

Like witnessing a car accident. Everybody stands around gasping at what just happened. But did anybody call an ambulance?  Surely somebody else did it so I don’t have to.

That’s the same thing that can happen with cybersecurity issues. Employees think that somebody else will handle it, yet nobody ever does.

Secure Training

The Solution

This issue can all be solved with cybersecurity training. To be clear, when I say training I am talking about something that is engaging and not boring (so people actually learn), and also ongoing and not annual (which doesn’t work).

Your employees are your front line in your defenses. Training empowers them to be your best, first defense. It establishes the best effects for your business:  

Creating a Reporting-Friendly Culture

Training should emphasize the importance of reporting all incidents, no matter how minor they seem. By fostering a culture where reporting is seen as a positive and necessary action, organizations can reduce the fear of retribution.

Clarifying Reporting Procedures

Employees should be educated on clear and straightforward reporting procedures. This includes knowing who to contact, what information to provide, and the urgency of different types of incidents. A well-defined incident response plan can help streamline this process.

Regular and Interactive Training

Ongoing training is essential to keep employees updated on the latest threats and best practices. Methods such as gamification, which makes training engaging and interactive, have proven effective. For example, Google’s use of gamified training modules helps employees practice cybersecurity skills in a fun and challenging environment.

Reinforcement and Continuous Learning

Cybersecurity is not a one-time lesson but a continuous learning process. Regular follow-up sessions, quizzes, and real-world simulations can help reinforce the training. This continuous learning approach ensures that employees remain vigilant and well-prepared to handle emerging threats.

Using Real-World Examples

Sharing success and failure stories within the organization can illustrate the importance of reporting and the potential consequences of failing to do so. These stories make the training relatable and underscore the real-world impact of cybersecurity practices.

Implementation of Security Tools

Encouraging the use of security tools such as strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and secure browsers can further enhance employees’ ability to protect against threats. Training should cover the use and importance of these tools, making them an integral part of daily operations.

The Wrap Up

Underreporting cybersecurity issues is a significant risk for businesses, but it is a risk that you can mitigate with the right training and cultural shift.

By fostering an environment where employees are encouraged and equipped to report security incidents promptly, you can enhance your security posture and better protect your business from the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

As always, if you want to talk about this or any other aspect of your technology then just reach out at any time.