AMU Cyber & AI Opinion Original

Creating Team Awareness to Theft in Complex Economic Times

Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

By Dr. Cynthia Silvia, DHA
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University

Organizations know that to be successful in today’s competitive retail environment, they must hire, develop and train the most talented associates. With cyber threats, data breaches, social engineering and money laundering schemes on the rise, these organizations must also have trained teams ready to respond to these incidents.

Cybercriminals can be a costly threat to the business industry even more so than the traditional methods of theft such as shoplifting. Cybercriminals have cost the business industry billions by using existing platforms as sources for data theft and computer hacks.

Data breaches are where cybercriminals make money by selling personal information to create bank and credit card accounts that can be sold to criminals on the black market. Major platforms are the main targets, because they collect large amounts of consumer data that can be used by cybercriminals.

Most recently, Facebook has been in the news for data leaks and Yahoo’s breach, one of the largest on record, compromised the data of three billion users. Cybersecurity crimes are expected to cost the business industry $6 trillion by 2021.

Money laundering is a separate offense in itself; however, it is connected to other offenses such as cybercrime, terrorism and organized crime. According to The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), money laundering costs businesses approximately 1.87 trillion dollars per year, noting that between two and five percent of the global GDP is laundered every year.

Why Awareness Is Necessary

With the risks of cyber-attacks, data breaches and money laundering schemes becoming more prevalent in business, many companies are reaching out to managers and employees with theft awareness training that can reduce the risks associated with these threats. Awareness training assists personnel in developing competencies, new techniques and methods to protect company resources.

Informed team players are the best line of defense against cyber threats, breaches and money laundering schemes. That’s why building a team of aware associates is critical in today’s business world.

Creating Team Awareness

Cyber security awareness training has taken precedence over the older, traditional forms of theft awareness. Encouraging associates to recognize IT-related issues and concerns and how to protect company and personal information will make them feel they are valued, contributing members of the team.

According to Peter Baron Stark, a leadership and workplace expert, there is a direct correlation between employee involvement within an organization and employee morale, motivation and job satisfaction. When associates feel valued as contributing members of an organization, they make better decisions and take ownership for what goes on around them.

Talent Management

Stark suggests that when managers show their appreciation for associates’ awareness, those associates will feel they are appreciated for their contributions to the team. They will then:

  • Improve the quality of their decision-making
  • Forge stronger bonds of accountability toward organizational success
  • Focus their activities on problem-solving
  • Display higher levels of morale and increased motivation

Theft awareness is an important part of employee training programs. Having a team of aware associates who take the initiative in reporting unusual activities is the dream of every manager. Members of the management team must develop and train their employees to address security concerns, such as cyber threats, the protection of customer data, social engineering and money laundering scams.

Managers must also take steps to assess, understand and ensure that the company’s security goals are being met and that team members comply with corporate policies, operating procedures and company directives. Managers that lead by example can have a positive effect on team members and their organization. Encouraging associates to report anything out of the ordinary creates a sense of pride and responsibility in preventing crime that contributes to the success of their organization.

Award-winning and bestselling author, marketer and speaker Kevin Daum suggests that members of the management team must:

  • Encourage open communication
  • Reward self-improvement
  • Provide core values
  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Promote accountability
  • Support independence
  • Show appreciation for their efforts and commitment in fighting costly company losses
Deterring Theft through Awareness

According to the National Retail Federation, the four major causes of company losses are cyber threats, data breaches, social engineering and money laundering schemes. The first step in reducing cyber threats is proper training for all associates. An effective security awareness training program should include a review of the company’s cybersecurity policies and how to identify, report, and respond to security events.

Employees who travel must be made aware of the risks of using mobile devices while using hotspots and public internet access points. Make employees aware that they could be targets of phishing attacks that cybercriminals use to lure their targets, along with knowledge of how to defend themselves and their systems from a cyber-attack.

Equally important would be discussions of specific incidents such as the Target data breach that affected 70 million customers and cost the retailer $162 million in 2013 and 2014. The final costs could end up totaling $1 billion or more after all damages are in.

Employees can be more of a deterrent to theft if they pay particular attention at certain peak hours — such as opening, closing or lunch hours — to watch for suspicious activities such as unusual credit card activities, multiple money grams and money orders sent to unusual addresses,  and gift card purchases for high dollar amounts.

Employees should also be mindful of shoppers entering and leaving the store, customers who observe staff, and large groups who enter together. Most thefts can be prevented if an employee is tasked with greeting customers. That lets the customers know that someone is aware that they are in the store. Saying hello or welcome and offering assistance is usually all that is needed.

Five Steps to Prevent Loss

Edward Dacuik, who has helped start and build up three technology companies, recommends five simple steps to help prevent losses:

  • Know where the sources of your losses are coming from
  • Train your employees to be more aware
  • Organize your store and add theft deterrents such as cameras, mirrors and even signs
  • Have surveillance equipment installed (even fake ones can often act as a deterrent)
  • Hire security guards if necessary.

Leaders need to celebrate employee awareness. Often, the simplest of measures such as employee awareness is all that is needed to prevent losses. Taking precautions to prevent cyber attacks and computer base crimes is as simple as taking the proper precautions and implementing the right best practices.

There is power in education, and by taking the right precautions, you will recognize scams in advance. Using an effective firewall is an effective way to thwart cybercrime. Be sure to click links with caution and only from those you know. Practice safe shopping and surfing the internet. Keeping your operating system updated and securing your systems with strong passwords. McAfee recommends using common sense and exercising caution to keep internet crime at a minimum.

Empowerment can have a profound effect on the success of an organization and its employees when it comes to preventing cybercrime. Reminding employees of their importance to the organization’s success instills a sense of pride, which is needed to achieve team awareness goals. Aware associates need leaders who show their appreciation and thank them for a job well done.

Empowering associates to maintain organizational safety and prevent consumers from being targets of cyber-attacks can help protect from malware, phishing, spyware, social engineering, and other common and emerging threats. Rewarding and recognizing associates before their peers can make a big difference.

Managing Team Awareness

Many incidents related to cybercrimes, data breaches, social engineering and money laundering activities could have been averted had employees received prevention training on proper protocols. Additionally, Jyothish Varma pointed out that current research reveals employee negligence as the number one cause of data breaches.

Effective awareness training has been proven to have a positive impact on the prevention of cybercrimes, social engineering and data breaches. Involving employees in awareness training helps them to understand the magnitude of cyber threats and safeguards the organization against cyber-attacks. Every employee has a personal responsibility to protect the integrity of consumer information and company data.

About the Author

Cynthia Silvia, DHA, is a full-time faculty member for the School of Business at AMU. She is also a member of the faculty at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. Dr. Silvia received a Master of Healthcare Administration and a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Rhode Island. She has been teaching at the university level both online and on campus for the past three years.

Additionally, Dr. Silvia has held various retail management positions over the past 37 years for F.W.Woolworth/Woolco, Bradlees, Ames, Sears, Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us, and CVS pharmacies.

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