To encourage more secure behavior, functional leaders should stop fixating on security awareness — good messaging from the top and conduct that doesn’t matter. Instead, they should address the true root causes: cognitive burden and the lack of accountability and specific guidance.

Cybersecurity leaders can use this research to:

  • Reduce the burden employees experience from the number of cybersecurity policies they have to navigate.
  • Increase accountability throughout the business, including getting functional leaders to do the right thing.
  • Teach employees how to take acceptable risks. Sometimes it is justifiable to violate certain, though not all, security policies.

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