The only way to ensure that a business remains safe is to make sure that every single employee throughout the company shares this responsibility.

There once was a time when cybersecurity was an esoteric topic. High-tech firms and government agencies needed to worry about protecting their data and other digital resources from hackers, but this was something that the vast majority of companies did not have to worry about.

Needless to say, that time has passed. Now, every organization, regardless of size or industry, needs to make cybersecurity a priority.

That’s not the only way data security issues have broadened to become more universal. As the number and variety of companies targeted by cybercriminals has expanded, so, too, has the nature of organizations’ cybersecurity efforts. In the past, protecting the company network from outsider threats was exclusively the responsibility of the IT department. Now, though, the only way to ensure a business remains safe is to make sure that every single employee throughout the company shares this responsibility. This makes information security awareness training a top-level priority for any cybersecurity strategy.

Fortunately, the number of CIOs and other company leaders who recognize this state of affairs is growing, as Forbes contributor Thornton May recently reported.

A team effort

May noted that many experts in the cybersecurity field acknowledge that there’s no such thing as a 100 percent unbeatable defense. The threats that companies and government organizations face are so sophisticated and numerous that the risk of a breach can never go away completely.

But, that being said, it is very possible for firms to take steps that can reduce this threat. And as the writer pointed out, broadening the cybersecurity team to incorporate everyone within the organization is arguably the single most important effort that leaders can pursue.

To this end, IT security professionals need to focus on developing tools, strategies and policies that incorporate security into every aspect of employees’ day-to-day responsibilities.

“[R]ather than focusing primarily on locking down assets, the mission of the information security group must shift to enabling the business while applying a reasonable level of protection,” explained Malcolm Harkins, general manager of information risk and security at Intel, the source reported. “To put it another way, we provide the protection that enables information to flow through the enterprise.”

The reality of the situation is that the old way of protecting corporate data – efforts that focused solely on firewalls and other tools that protect the assets themselves – are no longer viable. Eddie Schwartz, the former chief security officer at RSA, told May that such strategies are “completely worthless” in the face of nation-sponsored attacks and highly sophisticated cybercriminals.

Training needed

With all that established, CIOs and other leaders need to now determine how to best go about making cybersecurity an organization-wide effort.

These decision-makers are generally prepared to both increase investment and try new approaches in this realm. TechTarget recently reported that the majority of CIOs see security as a leading priority in 2015, and they know that traditional approaches to cybersecurity have proven ineffective on many occasions.

This makes information security awareness training an invaluable strategy. By investing their cybersecurity dollars in training, company leaders can ingrain best practices in their personnel, ensuring that everyone understands their unique data security responsibilities. This delivers a level of protection far more valuable and reliable than any firewall.