Your organization is assessing budgets, and security is high on the list. You’ve hired top talent for your DevSecOps team, and generally speaking, your tech landscape has security in mind.
That’s a great start but an incomplete approach to true cybersecurity. The missing piece? Your staff.
No matter how much money you throw at your security strategy, you remain vulnerable without individual contribution. A shocking 82% of security breaches involved human error or oversight, highlighting the importance of education and action from end users.
Your security staff understands the importance of prevention and attention to threats, but knowledgeable players can’t be everywhere all at once. Education and communication are vital to ensuring your end users are security savvy. After all, end-user accounts are the gateway to your data and systems. Your gatekeepers must be alert to threats and risks.
Key Elements for Effective Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Once you understand the critical role that end users play in an effective cybersecurity strategy, how can you ensure everyone is on board and honoring their responsibilities to keeping the organization safe?
Cybersecurity awareness training ensures that your messaging and position are clear and that your end users understand not only the what and the why of their involvement but how they can contribute to your security strategy. There are five elements to consider to ensure your cybersecurity training approach is effective.
1. Is Cybersecurity Part of Your Organization’s Lexicon?
The best place to start with cybersecurity is ensuring the topic features in the lexicon of your organization. Risks and threats are a part of everyday life in the digital-first era, and businesses cannot afford to take protection – or education – for granted.
Training sessions and status meetings are valuable, of course. But organizations should refrain from saving the conversation for a monthly or quarterly meeting and instead incorporate cybersecurity into their communications with employees, starting with onboarding.
Ensure your employees understand their role in security and know who to turn to if they’re unsure or have concerns about a threat. Talk about proactive approaches to security and modern threats to be aware of.
2. Relevant Threats to Your Organization, Industry, and End User
It’s not only impossible to cover the breadth of cybersecurity threats, but it’s ineffective to attempt it. Instead, awareness training should focus on relevant risks that affect your organization, industry, and user groups.
For example, your cybersecurity awareness training may include compliance education:
- If your organization is in the medical field, connect cyber threat education to HIPAA and HITECH.
- If you’re in financial services, discuss PCI DSS compliance.
- If you – or your third-party partners – have a presence in the European Union, your end users must understand how GDPR affects data sovereignty.
- In the US, California’s CCPA was inspired by GDPR standards.
Each of these standards explicitly holds organizations accountable for customer data and leaves little room for forgiveness if bad actors compromise security holes.
Additionally, throughout your organization, you likely have a variety of user groups and access controls. As such, only some threats are relevant to specific users. For example, members of your finance team likely have access to more systems or higher privilege levels than your service department. Training and awareness should be relevant to the user group in attendance.
3. Clarity and Consistency Are Key
Cybersecurity is a big topic and can often overwhelm those who are not security-minded. To ensure participation and effectiveness, keep your messages on point. The threat landscape constantly changes, but your messaging should be consistent and digestible for trainees.
Despite shifts in attack approaches, there are best practices that lay a security foundation, no matter the industry or user. Those include:
- Password strength – set clear rules for password length and composition and enforce strong passwords that are changed regularly.
- Ransomware – the current threat landscape points to ransomware as the number one global threat, and end users should understand what it is, how it works, and how to identify risk.
- Remote work – if, like many organizations, you have end users who have moved to a fully remote or hybrid work model, users should understand threats unique to remote logins and disparate networks and proper device hygiene to keep them safe.
- Phishing – often a precursor to ransomware, phishing attempts can easily fool unprepared end users and burden finances, resources, and time.
Start with best practices, and expand from there in a way that is easy for your end users to understand.
4. Real-World Examples Are the Most Effective
If organizations genuinely want their end users to receive and digest information about security threats, relevance and clarity are a good start. One of the most effective ways to share about security threats is to use real-world examples to illustrate the dangers and how to respond to these risks.
Share stories about organizations and employees who were not as fortunate and fell victim to a security breach. Rather than serving as scare tactics, real-world examples of successful cyberattacks help build context around proactive measures.
Leveraging real-world examples, cybersecurity training can include discussions about what actions an end user should have taken to avoid the breach or outcome.
5. Use a High-Quality Training Program
Ultimately, it’s not enough to have relevant information and actionable advice. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on those things, of course. Quite the contrary: build from the above points, and then make sure you’re delivering the message in a way that will be received.
Recycling slides and talking at (rather than with) end users will cause you to fall flat in your security strategy, ultimately. Studies have proven that there are four distinct learning styles, and engaging your trainees means leveraging multiple methods.
With the help of a high-quality training program and a professional cybersecurity training partner, you will not only ensure your content represents the current threat landscape but that your trainees retain the information you provide them. Choose a training program and partner that can be customized for your end users and is designed with learning – and retention – in mind.