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Commitment Based Security: Addressing the Human Side of Cyber Risk Prevention

Recently the water supply of a Oldsmar, Florida (a town of 15,000 near Tampa) came under attack from a malicious hacker who gained online access to the city’s water treatment system. The hacker attempted to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide (lye used to control the water’s acidity) to 100 times the normal level. The breech was immediately seen on the computer screen of a supervisor who was monitoring the system and he took immediate action to correct it. This employee, and the awareness and fast response he demonstrated, prevented the situation from escalating.

The ultimate security system is a combination of advanced security technology and the commitment of every employee to keep the workplace safe and secure.

This incident poses two very real questions for any manager to consider: Does every employee in your company have the situational awareness to recognize a potential threat? Does every employee know what action to take if they do see something that looks suspicious? Thankfully for the population of Oldsmar, Florida, the individual monitoring water supply that day knew the answer to both of these fundamental questions and took decisive action.

We were called on to address these very questions at a food processing plant in the midwest. We cannot disclose the company or the specific threat they feared, but the plant’s management recognized that even the best security technology has its limitations. The ultimate security system is a combination of advanced security technology and the commitment of every employee to keep the workplace safe and secure. Security technology without employee vigilance and commitment is not fail-safe. The program we developed with this client created a highly committed workforce that recognized the important role each person plays in keeping the plant safe and secure. We came to call this approach “Commitment Based Security.”

Below you will find a model that shows how the different levels of workforce awareness can lower your security risks. A single person, as was demonstrated in the Oldsmar incident, can make a huge difference in keeping an entire community safe and secure. It’s important that leaders recognize that security technology is only part of the answer—the first line and last line of security is the commitment of your people.

Below is our model for the Commitment Based Security Continuum. Please review our model and if you would like to discuss your strategy with us, click here.



Steven R. Rayner is a cofounder and the Chief Transformation Officer of Ascension Transformation Solutions, leading authorities in the area of high-performance work systems, corporate transformation, leadership development and culture change.

Additional Resources

Click here to to Steven R. Rayner, NCW's change and corporate storytelling consultant, on the transformation of A&D supplier LORD Corporation in 2017

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