Insights: Article

What Fire Ants Teach Us About Cybersecurity

By Anders Erickson

September 25, 2017

About the time that Hurricane Harvey was making landfall in southeast Texas, several news media outlets published articles about how fire ant colonies survive during floods. Fire ants have an exoskeleton that repels water. In a flood, fire ants survive by intertwining their legs and using their closely-connected bodies to create a fire ant raft. With this collective raft, fire ants can drift for miles until they find dry land. What fire ants instructively realize is that they need one another to survive.

Fire ants can teach us about cybersecurity. Many organizations fail to realize that every single user, no matter how great or small their contribution, has a role to play when it comes to cybersecurity. We all need another’s help to create an organizational culture where cybersecurity is seen as the critical element to success that it is. Leaders and executives need to recognize their role in fostering an environment where cybersecurity is not only taught, but respected. Where all users, regardless of responsibilities or access, are educated about their roles and responsibilities related to cybersecurity. Users need to recognize that their actions when they log onto a system can have a profound impact on the security of the organization and its data.

To help organizations foster a positive culture of cybersecurity, many regulatory bodies and industries groups have developed security frameworks. These frameworks are intended to ensure that organizations who implement these frameworks have considered all aspects of security. Below is a summary of some of these frameworks along with some of the industries that have adopted each:

  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework – Federal, State, & Local Government
  • ISO 27001 – Manufacturing & Construction
  • COBIT – Insurance
  • HITRUST – Health Care
  • FFIEC – Financial Institutions

Identify the framework that will best help your organization meet its security and compliance needs. Even with a chosen frameworks, many organizations struggle to find resources to aid in the implementation of sound security practices. Several excellent resources are available online. One such resource is a website called This site provides links to free online resources for a variety of cybersecurity topics—from antivirus to two-factor authentication. For the more technical users, the website provides descriptions and ratings of the top 125 network security tools.

Remember: We’re all in this together. Just like fire ants, if we all recognize the importance of our individual roles and rely on one another to each do our part, we can weather any cyber storm.

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