With today’s IoT-connected systems, experts say cybersecurity in the workplace is not just an IT issue, but an FM one as well

by Brianna Crandall — October 20, 2017 — Although facilities managers (FMs) may still think of cybersecurity as an information technology (IT) department issue, it has become an FM issue as well with the increasing use of Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices and automated building systems, as well as the mobile technology that allows office workers and FMs themselves to stay connected as they move around the building and even at home — not to mention the amount of sensitive building security information FMs have access to on their computers and phones.

In this rapidly evolving technological landscape, security experts say it is critical for businesses and other organizations to be prepared for — and know how to respond to — cybersecurity incidents. Many organizations, however, have a lot of work to do when it comes to guarding against cyber threats. In MediaPro’s second annual State of Privacy and Security Awareness survey of employees and the general public, for the second consecutive year, the average respondent was rated a security “novice” after being quizzed about security and privacy best practices.

In the middle of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) — a far-reaching online safety awareness and education initiative co-founded and led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — NCSA is encouraging every workplace to create a culture of cybersecurity “from the break room to the boardroom.”

To further the cyber readiness of the nation’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), NCSA is announcing the launch of a new initiative, CyberSecure My Business, to help organizations proactively protect their customers, employees and intellectual property — and by extension, their reputations and success.

The project is a comprehensive, national program comprised of interactive training based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, Webinars and Web resources to help businesses be resistant to and resilient from cyberattacks. Learn more and register for upcoming Webinars online.

As the program’s cornerstone, NCSA has translated the NIST Cybersecurity Framework into an introductory-level, in-person, highly interactive workshop. The workshop series — hosted in partnership with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with support from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and DHS in addition to occasional support from the Small Business Administration (SBA) — includes both in-person workshops and monthly Webinars providing guidance on integrating cybersecurity practices. The sessions interpret the NIST Cybersecurity Framework into easy-to-understand language and incorporate content from federal and industry partners, including recent threat data.

“The NIST Cybersecurity Framework helps make cybersecurity immediately relevant to businesses by starting with a simple question for business owners and operators: ‘What do you have to protect?’” said Michael Kaiser, NCSA’s executive director.

Take these steps outlined in the framework to better safeguard your organization against cyber threats:

  • Identify: Conduct an inventory of your most valuable assets — the “crown jewels” of greatest importance to your business and of most value to criminals — such as employee, customer and payment data.
  • Protect: Assess what protective measures you need in place to defend the organization as much as possible against a cyber incident.
  • Detect: Have systems set up that would alert you if an incident occurs, including the ability for employees to report problems.
  • Respond: Make and practice an incidence response plan to contain an attack and maintain business operations in the short term.
  • Recover: Know what to do to return to normal business operations after an incident or breach, including assessing any legal obligations.

Check out the latest NCSAM infographic for simple cybersecurity tips your business can follow.

A full 70% of a MediaPro survey’s respondents showed at least some lack of security and privacy awareness. The study had several other notable findings:

  • 24% of employees surveyed took potentially risky actions when presented with scenarios related to organizational physical security, such as letting strangers in without identification.
  • 20% of employees showed a lack of awareness related to safe social media posting, choosing risky actions such as posting on their personal social media accounts about a yet-to-be-released product of their employer.
  • 19% of respondents chose to take risky actions related to working remotely, such as connecting their work computers to an unsecured public WiFi hotspot.
  • 12% of respondents failed to recognize commons signs of malware when presented with real-life examples, such as a sluggish computer or anti-virus software unexpectedly switching off.

Lance Spitzner, director of SANS Security Awareness and a NCSA Board of Directors member, pointed out:

In the past, organizations may have implemented security awareness activities merely for compliance or behavior change, but now people are looking at ways to go beyond just behavior and make security part of the culture. Awareness programs are important because organizations are repeatedly seeing people as the primary targets for bad guys; cybersecurity is both a technical and human problem — and it requires a technical and human solution.

Top business concerns include ransomware, the Internet of Things, and bring your own device (BYOD) policies

As large-scale breaches continue to make headlines and businesses of all sizes fall victim to cyberattacks, organizations are more regularly thinking about the importance of cybersecurity. Ransomware — malware that accesses files, locks and encrypts them and then demands the victim to pay a ransom to get the files back — has been growing in prevalence and is a top concern for businesses, with threats such as WannaCry and the Petya attacks making the news in recent months. It’s important for organizations to know how to protect their critical customer, employee and intellectual property data so that they can be prepared in the event of a ransomware attack. Learn more about this threat and how to protect your organization against it here.

Another area of concern for businesses is the growing Internet of Things (IoT) — in which increasing numbers of devices, including wearables, TVs, cameras, speakers and vehicles — are connecting to the Internet and collecting, managing and/or using personal data. Cybercriminals have used unsecured IoT devices to take down massive numbers of Web sites at once, and other threats like IoT “as-a-service” breaches and attacks on connected city systems make it important for organizations to know how to secure their connected devices and networks. Businesses must work to keep their devices safer and more secure over time and build cybersecurity into their processes just as they value physical safety regulations in the workplace.

A third cybersecurity concern more and more businesses are facing is maintaining security in a BYOD workplace. Now more than ever, employees are using their personal smart devices — such as PCs and smartphones — for work purposes, which grows the potential number of vulnerabilities and makes cybersecurity in the workplace more complicated. It’s important for organizations to consider where sensitive company, customer and/or employee data is being accessed, and implement awareness and education activities, plans and policies to encourage security best practices regardless of the device being used.

Be a part of something big: Become a NCSAM Champion

One way you and/or your organization can participate in National Cyber Security Awareness Month is by becoming a NCSAM Champion, says the organization. Champions represent those dedicated to promoting a safer, more secure and more trusted Internet. Becoming a Champion is easy and does not require any financial support, adds NCSA. There are already more than 870 organizations and nearly 320 individuals signed up to support the month. Champions receive a toolkit of online safety awareness and education materials they can use to support the month and updates leading up to and throughout October on resources, upcoming events and ways to get involved.

Upcoming NCSAM events

NCSA and partners will host a number of events across the country up to and throughout National Cyber Security Awareness Month. A list of these may be found on the NCSA Events page.


Numerous resources from NCSA as well as the Department of Homeland Security, Better Business Bureau, Microsoft and other partners can be found on NCSA’s StaySafeOnline Web site, near the end of the NCSAM announcement, or on the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. site.