Importance of cybersecurity awareness training for employees

Lukas Grigas
Cybersecurity Content Writer

As cyberattacks continue to increase in frequency and sophistication, businesses are constantly looking for ways to enhance security across the board. Apps, firewalls, and various security protocols make up an organization’s security ecosystem. Sure, all of those technologies provide serious protection from a variety of cyber threats. However, one component in the strategy that too often gets overlooked is the team.

Human error accounts for almost 82% of all data breaches. Cybersecurity awareness training can change that within any organization. Today, we’re looking at what it is, why it’s essential, and how it can help your organization.

What is cybersecurity awareness training?

Cybersecurity awareness training is the approach organizations use to help their staff develop awareness and understanding of best practices to ensure a secure perimeter within the organization at all times. Cybersecurity awareness training usually includes formally educating the team on various cyber threats, the ways to recognize them, and the steps to take to mitigate those threats. Typically, cyber awareness is a long-term strategy and part of a more extensive security program.

While cybersecurity awareness training obviously starts in the IT department, it is important to realize that every member of the organization should take part in training to ensure that the whole company is on the same page.

Why is cybersecurity awareness training important?

Did you know that up to 82% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error and that on average the cost of a data breach stands at $4.35M globally? You can use the most sophisticated and up-to-date tech to mitigate cyber threats, but if your staff does not possess the savvy and awareness to identify and counter a potential threat, the tech won’t help. After all, numbers don’t lie.

A cybersecurity course brings numerous far-reaching benefits to any organization willing to carry it out. The benefits include introducing essential cybersecurity knowledge for the whole staff, improved overall awareness, threat reduction, prevention of possible downtime, savings on hefty regulatory fines in cases of cyber incidents, greater customer confidence, and in some instances, even greater revenue.

How often should cybersecurity training take place?

The short answer to the question of how often cybersecurity awareness training should occur – as frequently as possible. A training session every day would be great, but in reality, not feasible. After all, a business has other responsibilities too.

Ideally, cybersecurity training should be a part of any new employee’s onboarding process. Security professionals recommend running security awareness training sessions on at least an annual basis or, if possible, more frequently.

One thing that absolutely should not be done is running a single cybersecurity awareness training session and stopping there. Think of it this way: You can arrange a drum training session for your entire organization, but after a single session, your team most likely won’t come out playing like world-class drummers. Why? Well, actual drummers have put thousands of hours into polishing their craft. The same logic applies to cybersecurity awareness training — don’t be surprised that there’s no cybersecurity mastermind in your team after just one session.

The key is repetition. Make sessions frequent, but be sure to spread them out. Cognitive overload is real and can take a toll on those learning. Include humor in sessions and provide positive reinforcement. Play with the schedule for the best results. Explore how your team responds to those sessions, gather feedback, and make adjustments. Each organization should follow its needs and resources to make the most of cybersecurity training. Just don’t make it a one-time thing.

How effective is security awareness training?

You may be wondering – is the payoff really worth the amount of time and resources put into frequent company security training? How will you be able to see feasible results? Measuring exact improvements isn’t always clear-cut but you can pay attention to your employees’ theoretical and practical skills to come to a conclusion.

A steady decrease in cybersecurity incidents is a strong indicator of a successful strategy. According to a study conducted by Proofpoint in 2021, 80% of the surveyed companies saw their susceptibility to phishing attacks go down after effective security awareness training.

The effectiveness of security awareness training depends on the type of training the company chooses to conduct. For example, companies may choose to implement a consequence model to deal with employees who make cybersecurity mistakes. Some of the strategies used as consequences include:

Counseling sessions.

Retaking the training course.

Disciplinary actions involving the HR department.

Removal of access to the IT equipment.

Termination of employment.

Knowing the consequences of a potential breach can also play a role in how impactful the training is. While punishment for human errors is not recommended because it can negatively impact your relationship with your team, setting up a consequence model for repeat offenders is. The effectiveness of consequence models is also not as clear-cut as thorough cybersecurity training. While 82% of the companies reported that this model helped improve employee awareness, nearly a third of the respondents in the U.K. saw no significant difference.

The bottom line is that the more thorough and involved cybersecurity awareness training is, the more likely the company is to bear effective results. Thoroughness here means ensuring all employees, regardless of their level or time spent in the company, should receive the same training, covering a broad range of topics.

What topics cybersecurity awareness training should include

A well-rounded cybersecurity awareness training program should cover a variety of topics and practices for the program to be effective. It should include educational content, attack simulations, and penetration tests – threats and scenarios that can affect any sector. Additionally, the program should provide role-based training depending on the employees’ positions within the organization as well as follow-up sessions. For example, in the medical field, training should include HIPAA compliance, while legal professionals might invest time into learning GDPR requirements. At the end of the day, cyber awareness should be tailored to your organization and its specific needs. However, here are some other significant topics and essential practices that should be considered in cybersecurity awareness training. Let’s see some of the fundamentals that training should contain.

Social engineering and phishing awareness

Social engineering and phishing attacks are among the most common and popular types of cyberattacks. Including social engineering and phishing awareness in cybersecurity awareness training should be a no-brainer. Everyone on the team needs to have a good understanding of what a phishing email looks like and what constitutes social engineering.

Password security

The Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed that over 80% of data breaches are related to weak or stolen passwords. It’s no surprise that any cybersecurity training program that wants to be effective must include password security training. The password security part of training should focus on the importance of password complexity, best password management practices, and other password-related topics that might be specific to your organization.

Insider threats

The Verizon report also found that insider threats account for 20% of all breaches. Insider threats are defined as threats that come from a user inside the organization who leverages their authorized access to compromise the organization's network. In your cybersecurity awareness training program, you should dedicate time to understanding insider threats and exploring possible solutions and mitigation strategies.

CEO fraud

CEO fraud is a type of spear-phishing. During a CEO fraud, bad actors tend to impersonate the CEO to trick unsuspecting users into providing sensitive information to the fake “CEO” without realizing that bad actors are behind it all. Such attacks and ways to counter them should be covered in the cybersecurity awareness program because every employee within the organization could be affected by such an attack.

Internet use

Secure internet use practices should be included in an organization's cybersecurity awareness training program. Doing so will ensure that everyone in the organization is on the same page regarding internet use: What an organization deems safe and what it sees as off-limits and too risky. Doing so will significantly shrink the possible attack vector in the business.

Mobile devices use

Mobile devices are an inseparable part of our life. Unfortunately, people still tend to overlook mobile device security. Any organization that takes security seriously should dive deep into mobile security during the cybersecurity awareness training because threats and attack types of mobile devices continue to evolve daily. Remember, these days, mobile devices serve as authentication devices, which means that even a single compromised device could provide bad actors with access to an organization's network.

Social media policy

Social media is a fact of life. And while it provides an awesome way to stay connected with friends and family, it also provides the perfect playing ground for bad actors. We've all heard of Cambridge Analytica's story and countless similar ones. During a cybersecurity awareness session, the team should be educated about the threats that lurk within social media platforms and the organization's policy and guidance on general social media use should be communicated.

Cybersecurity threat reaction

Ensuring that the team knows what should be done and in what order in case of a cyberattack is an essential aspect of cybersecurity awareness training. As much time as possible should be dedicated to threat reaction. It might make the difference between a controlled attack and a full-on data breach. Establishing patterns of action and familiarizing the team with them is key.

In-depth cybersecurity training for specific roles

Whether planning cybersecurity awareness training for small businesses or enterprises, it should always include the entire organization. It is critical to understand that the training should be tailored to different teams and individuals to get the most out of the program. Some teams might require an in-depth approach (think IT, compliance, and risk assessment teams). In contrast, others might not need much in-depth information but would be better served with more practical training, such as how to respond to a phishing attempt and to whom to report the attempted attack.

Providing specific training for specific individuals and groups should improve the entire organization's security posture significantly because such training would cover all the bases.

Improve employee password habits with NordPass

These days, password security and management are hot topics, and rightly so. After all, passwords are the first line of defense against unauthorized access. The stats show that even though most people are aware of how important passwords are, they still struggle with password security, sometimes even at an elementary level. Password fatigue is real and largely drives people to adopt dubious habits when it comes to passwords, which in turn can have devastating consequences, especially in a business environment.

NordPass Business is a password manager designed to counter all of the above issues. A business password manager such as NordPass takes the password load off the team members and allows them to remain focused on what matters. How?

NordPass provides a single secure place to store and access passwords on any device, even when the user is offline. Furthermore, with NordPass, the team no longer needs to try and create passwords that adhere to all the complex rules on their own. All they have to do instead is use the built-in Password Generator. The autofill feature eliminates the need for manual password typing and automatically fills in passwords, credit card details, and personal information forms.

By taking the password load off any team's shoulders with a team password manager such as NordPass, more time and energy will be left to foster the best password habits.

Please schedule a demo with our representative if you are interested in what NordPass Business can do for your organization.

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