The World Day for Safety and Health at Work, an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work, held on April 28th has been observed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 2003. How does cybersecurity factor into it? It doesn’t, at least not yet. The World Day for Safety and Health at Work has typically focused on “occupational accidents and diseases”, with recent themes focusing on safety and health culture (2015) and workplace stress (2016).
But, it could be argued, cybersecurity awareness should factor as part of this day – officially or otherwise (it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of workplace-related health and safety).
“Cybersecurity is now a global issue, affecting companies of all sizes and every employee, at all levels of a business,” says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of ESET South Africa, “the time is now for enterprises to see this issue as an important consideration when it comes to health and safety.”
In fact, in today’s connected era – where the Internet of Things enables everything from smart fridges to connected pacemakers – it could be argued that security and safety now go hand-in-hand.
“We need to reverse the trend to connect everything to the internet,” said computer security guru Bruce Schneier in a recent article for New York Magazine. “And if we risk harm and even death, we need to think twice about what we connect and what we deliberately leave uncomputerized.
“If we get this wrong, the computer industry will look like the pharmaceutical industry, or the aircraft industry. But if we get this right, we can maintain the innovative environment of the internet that has given us so much.”
Why should you boost cybersecurity in the workplace?
Cybersecurity is increasingly important in the workplace, simply because of the impact it can have on every aspect of business, from the safe storage of information to the prevention of data breaches, which could impact revenue. Cyberattacks can, at their worst, put companies out of business, or cause firms to be penalized by huge fines from data protection authorities (DPAs) – something that will become increasingly significant when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation is introduced.
Fortunately, in many 'switched on' firms, cybersecurity has become more high profile - it's a boardroom agenda item. Firms are conducting regular security training awareness programs, with security teams empowered by boards to protect themselves from latest threats.
The danger if you don’t is well publicized. Statistics show that 38% of breaches are internal, with a 2015 study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham revealing that three out of four companies view employee negligence as the greatest breach threat. The study also found that around 75% of employees upload classified work files to personal cloud accounts.
These figures are at risk of going significantly higher as companies embrace the cloud and become more connected through the IoT.
As examples of this connectivity – and the growing risk – the largest UK hospital was hit by a ransomware attack in January, while one month earlier a DDoS attack on automated buildings systems in Finland disabled heating controls.
Separately, two white hat security researchers from the US managed to hack into the building management system of an office belonging to a tech giant in Sydney, Australia, while – in an incident illustrating the dangers of IoT security – St. Jude Medical’s connected pacemaker was found vulnerable to attack. Cybersecurity and health and safety clearly go hand-in-hand.
Why should companies make cybersecurity as important as health and safety?
The introduction of health and safety regulation has steadily improved employee welfare over the years, from reducing stress and accidents to insurance claims.
Companies that prioritize cybersecurity will likely see even greater benefits, from better defense and fewer successful attacks to more funding from the board for technology solutions. Ultimately, a stronger defensive posture will help improve brand reputation (which is usually negatively impacted in the event of a data breach), safeguard revenues and – in certain critical operations – save lives.
Furthermore, some would argue that companies simply have to embrace cybersecurity – cybercriminals are leveraging the latest technologies, cybercrime-as-a-service is commonplace and the desire for businesses to use data for competitive advantages puts them at greater risk. Cybersecurity has to be a top priority from company boardrooms on down if digital businesses are to be truly protected.
Seamus Doyle, CIO at Northern Ireland Water, emphasized the importance of cybersecurity in relation to health and safety in an interview last year with Business Reporter.
“When I am talking with some of my senior colleagues, [cybersecurity] is not quite as serious as health and safety but it is the next step down,” he said.
“Companies have long since moved past sacrificing health and safety for productivity. It is not an acceptable way to do business and people are moving to the same mindset with cybersecurity.”