Blog: How Tos

What we can learn from Meerkats?

Tom Roberts 03 Dec 2013

The title of this post will no doubt attract the wrong sort of crowd, mainly those in search of insurance or stuffed animals depicting anthropomorphised meerkats speaking with poorly depicted accents. However, in this instance I am referring to the social animal that lives in tight collective groups.

According to Wikipedia “they display an altruistic behaviour within their colonies; one or more meerkats stand as sentries… to warn them of approaching dangers.”. It is this behaviour I would like to focus on. Recently while speaking with a client they stated “whenever a suspect email comes in someone will stand up over their cubicle and shout to others in hearing distance “we’ve had a suspect email, be on the lookout and don’t click on anything you aren’t 100% sure is legit”. And this is what I would like to refer to as “The Meerkat Response”. This simple, but highly effective method of rapid awareness has prevented the firm from being taken in by numerous phishing approaches.

This system will never be fool proof, but it highlights a great attitude to security awareness, that of altruistic behaviour by someone in the group that raises the potential threats to others allowing them to take rapid response and get on with their lives. And doing it in a manner which gets people’s attention.

This kind of behaviour should be encouraged. While it may, on some occasions, raise a false alarm, the act of making your co-workers rapidly aware of something that could, realistically, lose your company money and thus impact on everyone’s livelihood in as cheap and cost effective manner as could ever be imagined is, to my mind, a perfect low cost mitigation to an ever growing problem.

So, while I won’t advertise the company that uses these cuddly little critters, that would in real life probably gnaw your finger off if you gave them half a chance, they are showing a simple solution to a complex problem. I am not suggesting it should be your only defence, but as low cost solutions go, encouraging a “meerkat response” ethos in your office is a great starter for 10 which will probably cost you less than the price of some average car insurance.

Security can be simples. It’s not always, but some small and easy techniques can drastically improve your staff awareness and perception to threats. Feel free to talk to us about other low cost/high impact solutions for security awareness.