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Understanding the Human Element of Cybersecurity

Businesses, including tech-centric startups, often spend a great deal of time and money on cybersecurity strategy. They might put in place the latest, greatest tools and technology, but they fail to remember something critical—the human element is often the biggest cybersecurity risk.

This has been particularly evident as so many people have been working remotely through the pandemic.

Employers have suffered tremendous losses related to cybersecurity, often because of human error or a lack of training and knowledge on cybersecurity best practices among employees, including high-level executives.

Until you can understand and address the human element of cybersecurity, you’re not going to have an entirely successful strategy in place, and your startup will be at risk.

The following are some of the key things you should know outside of the realm of being strictly technical. These are the human components of cybersecurity that are just as important as the technology you have in place.

Security Awareness Programs

A big first step, whether you’re a startup or not, is having a general cybersecurity awareness program in place.

Security awareness isn’t specific to training. Instead, it’s more focused on a broader culture of security within your organization.

Your entire business culture is built around everyone understanding their role in cybersecurity and the steps they should take in their daily work.

Awareness programs aren’t about a specific tool either. These awareness programs can evolve and change as needed, and they start at the top, meaning you need to model the behaviors you want to see out of your employees.

You can link your cybersecurity culture to other elements of company culture. For example, you can make it about the empowerment of your employees to do the right thing, which goes beyond cybersecurity.


Training is a specific element of a security awareness program, but the two are not the same.

With a security training program, you’re going beyond a high-level focus on cybersecurity, and instead, you’re training employees on specific techniques and providing them with relevant information to do their jobs on a daily basis.

When creating a training program, you need to have specific and measurable goals for each step along the way.

One of the big mistakes even enterprise-level organizations make regarding employee cybersecurity training is that they don’t have metrics in place to determine success or failure, so they don’t ultimately know where they can improve.

When you’re creating training programs for your staff, you want to go out of your way to meet them where they are in terms of their learning style. E-learning can be a good option because it allows your employees to learn at a pace and in a way that feels comfortable for them.

As you’re going, get continual feedback. Learn more about what your employees like and don’t like about your cybersecurity training, so you can tweak it along the way.

Connect Cybersecurity to a Greater Purpose

There’s a high likelihood that your employees have chosen to work for your startup because they want a sense of purpose. Adding a sense of purpose to all that your employees do will be motivating and resonate with them, and that doesn’t exclude cybersecurity.

For example, make the connection to each of your employees that they play a vital role in protecting the data and information of your company. A breach isn’t just going to be expensive.  It can also damage your brand and reputation, which is something your employees likely take pride in.

Understand the Human Pitfalls

Your workforce can be your greatest strength when it comes to cybersecurity, but you also have to be honest with yourself about human weaknesses.

We’re all human and that can translate to cybersecurity risks. When you’re honest with yourself about these risks, it puts you in a better position to safeguard against them.

For example, it’s an unfortunate reality that laziness can be a reason for cybersecurity risks.

For example, your employees might be working remotely and could be laxer with their security protocols.

Humans can also just simply make mistakes. That’s why something as seemingly transparent as phishing remains one of the predominant ways cybercriminals gain access to companies and data.

What does all of this mean for your startup?

Approach everything you do with an eye toward the human element first and foremost. Cybersecurity is no exception. From there, you can build out a more robust cybersecurity strategy integrating technology as well.

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