Cyber Circle Season 2 Session 4 – Three approaches to integrating security culture within organizational culture

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This paper delves into the confluence of company culture and security culture, recognizing them as interconnected pillars that support a resilient and thriving business ecosystem. Specifically, we explore three distinct approaches that organizations can adopt to seamlessly integrate security culture within their broader organizational ethos. By understanding and implementing these approaches, companies can effectively fortify their defenses against cyber threats while fostering an environment where security-conscious behavior becomes second nature to all members of the workforce.


Through the examination of these approaches, accompanied by real-world examples and practical insights, this paper aims to provide organizational leaders, security professionals, and human resources practitioners with a comprehensive guide to enhancing security culture integration. As the boundaries between physical and digital realms continue to blur, the significance of cultivating a cohesive company culture— one that unites traditional values with contemporary security imperatives—becomes increasingly paramount.


Pro Tip: Embrace Growth by Planting Seeds


Drawing inspiration from start-ups, scale-ups, and innovators, the key lesson is clear: Never hesitate to sow the seeds of growth liberally. Just like a garden, your opportunities for growth are vast and varied. Planting many seeds increases your chances of discovering the most fertile ground for success.


However, it’s equally important to ensure that your team and resources are not wandering aimlessly through this garden. Guide them to appreciate the beauty of each opportunity and nurture those with the most potential. In doing so, you’ll cultivate a flourishing landscape of innovation and achievement.


Why would you start working on the implementation of a Security Culture from your position?


  1. Fostering Transparency: Encouraging open communication, especially about security issues and risks within the organization.
  2. Promoting Digital Confidence: Building trust and belief in digital technologies while ensuring their safe use.
  3. Ensuring End-to-End Security Awareness: Integrating security awareness into all aspects of business processes and workflows.
  4. Creating a Culture of Accountability: Holding individuals responsible for their role in maintaining security.
  5. Cultivating Continuous Improvement: Instilling a mindset of ongoing adaptation and enhancement of security practices as the threat landscape evolves.


And certainly, here’s the sixth


FIRST APPROACH: Getting Access to Your Company’s Culture for Effective Security Integration


Understanding your company’s strategic approach to fostering corporate culture is an essential first step in integrating security culture effectively. This approach begins by posing a critical question: Where does my company culture currently stand, and where does my security culture fit within this context?


  1. Assessment of Current State: Begin by conducting a comprehensive assessment of both your company culture and security culture. This involves a detailed examination of existing norms, values, and behaviors within the organization.
  2. Identify Influences: Identify the key influencers and factors shaping your company culture and security culture. Are there prominent leaders who set the tone? Are there strategic initiatives in place? Are there any disruptions or obstacles hindering cultural development?
  3. Necessary Cultural Changes: Determine the extent to which you need to modify the existing culture to accommodate a robust security culture. Define the state of awareness and mindset towards cyber security in your field. This assessment should identify areas that require improvement or realignment.
  4. Continuous Engagement: Fostering culture requires continuous engagement. Ensure that employees are consistently informed and involved in the evolution of security culture. Regular communication is vital in this regard.
  5. Clear Messaging: Effective culture change benefits from clear, concise messaging. Leadership should articulate the importance of security culture and communicate it consistently throughout the organization.
  6. Leadership Rollout: Leadership plays a pivotal role in driving cultural change. Leaders must not only endorse security culture but actively embody it. Their actions should align with the cultural shift they wish to promote.
  7. Establish Clear Rules: Define clear and well-communicated rules and guidelines related to security practices. These rules provide a framework that helps employees understand their responsibilities and boundaries.
  8. Support Behavioral Change: If significant shifts in workforce behavior are necessary, make these changes approachable. Offer training, resources, and support to help employees adapt to new security practices.
  9. Awareness of Influences: Be mindful of both conscious and unconscious influences on culture. Uncover hidden biases or factors that may unintentionally shape behavior. Address these influences to ensure alignment with security culture objectives.


In summary, the first approach involves a thorough assessment of your organization’s current culture, identifying influential factors, and gauging the extent of necessary cultural changes. It emphasizes continuous engagement, clear messaging, leadership involvement, rule establishment, and support for behavioral change. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of recognizing both conscious and unconscious influences on culture as you work towards seamlessly integrating security culture within your corporate ethos.


SECOND Approach: Establishing People-First Mindsets for Robust Security Culture


In the quest to seamlessly integrate security culture within an organization, the second approach emphasizes the cultivation of people-first mindsets. This approach acknowledges that culture primarily resides in the collective mindset of the workforce and posits that nurturing the right mindset is key to success. Here are the essential components of this approach:


  1. Transparency as a Foundation: Building a security culture begins with absolute transparency. Employees need to understand the why, how, and what of security practices. This transparency not only educates but also builds trust, as individuals appreciate being included in the decision-making process.
  2. Creating a Sphere of Responsibility: Cultivating a people-first security culture involves creating a sense of ownership and responsibility among employees. When individuals feel that they play an integral role in safeguarding the organization, they are more likely to be proactive in security matters.
  3. Disrupting Incentives: Traditional incentives may not always align with security goals. This approach involves reevaluating and, if necessary, disrupting existing incentive structures to motivate behaviors that prioritize security.
  4. End-to-End Mindset: Security culture goes beyond isolated actions or departments; it demands an end-to-end mindset. To achieve this, substantial effort must be dedicated to enabling employees to understand the broader security context and their role within it.
  5. Expecting and Embracing Change: Security culture must prepare individuals to anticipate and adapt to change. It instills a mindset where change is not feared but expected.
  6. Human-Centric Problem Solving: Shift the perception of security from a pre-packaged solution to an ongoing, human-driven problem-solving process. Security should be seen as a dynamic aspect of the organization, evolving as new challenges arise and business workflows transform.


By adopting the second approach and establishing people-first mindsets, organizations can create a security culture where transparency, responsibility, and adaptability flourish. This approach recognizes that the heart of a strong security culture lies in the collective consciousness of its people, making it a powerful strategy for seamlessly integrating security principles throughout the organization.


THIRD APPROACH: Continuous and Motivating Enablement of People through Learning Paths for a Strong Security Culture


In the pursuit of a robust security culture, the third approach centers on continuous and motivating enablement of individuals via well-structured learning paths. This approach is anchored in the belief that people, when provided with the right tools and motivations, can become enthusiastic champions of security culture. Here are the key elements of this approach:


  1. Emphasizing the Benefits: Convincing individuals that security culture is not merely a corporate imposition but a “good thing” that directly benefits them. Showcasing how security practices can safeguard both the organization and their personal lives instills a sense of personal relevance.
  2. Understanding the “WHY”: Education is key to buy-in. Explaining the rationale behind security measures, not just in a corporate context but also how they apply to individuals in their everyday lives, helps bridge the gap between business objectives and personal concerns.
  3. Continuous, Relatable Messaging: Consistency in messaging is vital. Employees need a reliable source of information and motivation they can connect with over time. This ongoing communication helps them feel engaged and part of a larger movement.
  4. Making Learning Fun and Accessible: Engaging communication is not just about content but also presentation. Learning materials should be visually appealing, messages should be clear and consistent, and the learning process should be easy to access and memorable.
  5. Alignment with Company Culture: While security culture must integrate with the broader company culture, it can also be an avenue for exploring new dimensions of the existing culture. It’s crucial to understand where security culture fits within the organizational culture and ensure alignment while allowing room for innovation.
  6. Sustained Commitment: A successful security culture requires persistence. Staying committed to a chosen approach for an extended period allows the culture to take root and become ingrained in the organization’s DNA.


By adopting the third approach and focusing on continuous enablement through well-structured learning paths, organizations can create a security culture where individuals feel motivated, informed, and empowered. This approach recognizes that security culture is not merely a set of rules but a dynamic, engaging, and evolving journey that benefits both the organization and its people.




These three approaches, while initially distinct, converge on a common goal: a resilient security culture. The difference lies in where you start – strategy, leadership, or communication and education. Yet, they all stress transparency, responsibility, education, and a dynamic mindset.

Regardless of the chosen path, building a robust security culture is a collective effort, not solely the security team’s responsibility. It requires adaptation, learning, and growth together.

Strategic, leadership, and communication and education approaches are complementary facets of a holistic strategy that fortifies an organization’s resilience against threats while fostering security-conscious behavior. Thus, security culture is a continuous, collective endeavor, safeguarding both the organization and its people in an interconnected world.


Cyber Circle, located in Switzerland, is a project that connects CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers) with researchers. This collaborative community meets every two months for an evening of valuable discussions and activities centered around their roles. The focus is on providing insights, facilitating cross-industry learning, enabling external peer networking, and conducting practical workshops.


The ultimate goal is to establish improved cybersecurity principles, including human-centered security, within companies.


Join Cyber Circle and become part of a friendly community shaping the future of cybersecurity!


Circle hosts:
Milena Thalmann, White Rabbit Communications
Stefan von Rohr, Peer Consult
Peter Kosel, cyberunity

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