Boost IT security and organisational learning through gamification

12/04/20185 Minute Read

“Shall we play a game?”

You might recognise this iconic phrase uttered by Joshua in WarGames. In the movie, Joshua was a super computer that needed to learn the ethical difference between playing chess and playing global nuclear war. Today, that phrase—without the sinister context—is at the core of gamification, which drives productivity and learning in many workplaces.

What exactly is gamification?

Gamifying something is the process of simply taking a relatively rudimentary task and making it more interesting by giving the user a small amount of reward and recognition for completion. For instance, consider the gratification you receive from the “Like” button on many social media applications—it often supplies a small amount of joy when you receive a like from a post, which makes you want to post more to get more likes. That’s a basic form of gamifying, and while obvious, you might not notice how often it pops up in IT these days and adds value in the strangest places.

Take Wunderlist, for example. This smartphone app manages lists, and when you finish a task, it provides a nice “ding” sound to notify you the task is complete. That ding sound is so pleasing to hear it makes you want to complete more tasks so you can hear it again. Or maybe you’ve seen those portable smart devices outside airports, which ask you to rate the staff’s service. These devices have a selection of faces representing your satisfaction with the airport service—they’ve turned collecting feedback into a game to improve results.

How can gamification increase organisational learning?

Many successful video games work on the premise of reward and recognition. World of Warcaft, Overwatch, and even Dungeons and Dragons will reward you by upgrading your character when you successfully complete a level. The same type of technology is now available in e-learning centres, and many online Software as a Service (SaaS) providers reward their users with points for providing information to solve a problem.

Experts Exchange is a prime example: It’s a site for people who have a technical problem and need an in-depth answer. Other users, who’re experts in particular fields, may post possible solutions to a problem, and the best answer is then rewarded with points. Experts Exchange’s success can arguably be attributed to its leaderboard, which is published and updated regularly with the most relevant experts in a range of fields. Who wouldn’t want to be recognised as the best in their expertise by answering as many questions as accurately as possible to rise to the top?

Can you gamify IT security?

Have you ever forgotten your password? If you’re like most employees out there, then you’ve probably needed to click the “I forgot my password” link from time to time, even if you don’t want to admit it. This can be a frustrating experience, and it’s easy to understand why people use the same password for many sites.

However, as an IT pro, you know just how dangerous that really is. If one of your users has the same username and password for multiple sites and one of those sites is hacked, their login credentials might be made available on a black market, and the criminal who buys their login details may try the credentials on as many well-known sites as possible. Invariably, they’ll likely get access to more and more of your employee’s life until they start to take over their personal identity. When you consider how that leak could bleed into the workplace and expose your entire business network, you’ll fully realise the gravity of the situation—and how important user education is in relation.

You can emphasise the importance of strong passwords in multiple training sessions, but more often than not, those lessons don’t sink in as well as they could. One way to improve organisational learning when it comes to IT security? Gamify it. Bitium, for instance, is a company that’s done this very well—they essentially provide your organisation’s security with a score (A, B, C, or D) based on the strength of all your passwords. They can also help employees raise their “grade” by generating stronger passwords or repeatedly testing the strength of new passwords, empowering users to come up with better, more secure options, while reducing the IT burden at the same time.

What does gamification look like in technology?

The key elements for successful deployment of hardware—another critical IT process—are the same as the previous examples, however, they have the benefit of being measured at the hardware level. Gamifying hardware involves three parts:

  1. Developing easy and clear rules of engagement
  2. Making accurate comparisons (either between teams or previous individual values)
  3. Providing fast reward and open recognition

For instance, take pressing the log-out button on a printer as an example. If users forget to log out before they walk away from the printer, then it may still be active for somebody to walk past and access sensitive information. They could possibly see previous documents that have been scanned or even access secure directories. To combat this, you can gamify interfaces to encourage users to log out with a few simple steps, such as displaying a “don’t forget to log out” message after logging in, playing a nice “ding” sound after a user successfully logs out, or recording log-in and log-out events to identify the user or team that proved best at logging out from the printer.

Put simply, gamification is a great way to encourage your employees to learn good behaviour with IT security in the workplace. And if you’re worried your efforts to gamify might not stick for everybody, you can always invest in additional security solutions to lay on top of hardware or devices with embedded security features, which can protect your users and network without anyone noticing.

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