Spreading information security

Spreading information security

It’s the one bug you do want to catch: new research has found a culture of security in an organisation can be contagious.

Researchers from RMIT Vietnam found staff who already have a high awareness of information security can play a crucial role in elevating the organisation’s Information Security (InfoSec) culture, simply through social influence.

The research suggests workplace culture plays an important part in protecting an organisation’s data, alongside more technical strategies. 

RMIT Vietnam Lecturer Dr Duy Dang-Pham led the project alongside senior researchers Professor Karlheinz Kautz, Dr Siddhi Pittayachawan and Dr Vince Bruno from the School of Business IT and Logistics at RMIT in Melbourne.

Professor Karlheinz Kautz (left), Dr Duy Dang-Pham (centre) and Dr Siddhi Pittayachawan (right) worked with an industry partner on the research project.

The project investigated the creation of an InfoSec climate inside a large Vietnamese company and analysed the perception of security issues among the employees as well as their social relationships and socialising patterns, such as advice sharing.

This allowed the research group to track and chart the changes in perception and socialising patterns over a three-month period.

“We’ve found that employees increase their information security awareness as a result of increased socialising with colleagues who have a high awareness of InfoSec issues,” said Duy.

“In other words, information security is contagious.”

The project started with internal training on information security issues and identifying the key influencers in the InfoSec culture within the workplace.

These influencers were staff members at different levels and in different roles, but who were all informally providing information security advice across the network.

As part of the project, the research group also took part in the design and implementation of structural changes to improve InfoSec awareness among company staff.

“The partnership between the academics and the organisation allowed for a practical research project with immediate impact,” Duy said.

The study ‘Explaining the Development of Information Security Climate and an Information Security Support Network: A Longitudinal Social Network Analysis’ has been published in the Australasian Journal of Information Systems.

 

Story: Matt Kelly and Jasmijn van Houten

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