As cyber threats increase and organizations invest additional time and resources into building their defenses, one primary vulnerability often goes overlooked: your end-users.
Your employees, who spend their days accessing data, documents, and applications across numerous endpoints within your network, can be a security risk—or they can be part of the solution.
How in-the-loop are your end-users with how the threat landscape is changing and how to protect themselves and your organization in their daily work? We recommend arming your employees with the knowledge they need to stay safe with cybersecurity awareness training, one of the essential layers within your organization’s layered security approach.
Layered security is a network security approach that deploys multiple security controls to protect the most vulnerable areas of your technology environment where a breach or cyberattack could occur. (Read More: What is Layered Security & How Does it Defend Your Network?)
What Does an Effective Cybersecurity Awareness Training Program Look Like?
An effective cybersecurity awareness training program includes multiple layers of training for end-users on the different kinds of threats to look out for. Training may include topics such as…
- Phishing and safe email use
- Social engineering
- Malware and ransomware
- Password safety
- Sensitive data risks
- Personally identifiable information safety
- Insider threats
- Physical data security
Phishing simulations are a key component of cybersecurity awareness training. Could your employees spot a phishing email if it slipped past your email filter and into their inbox?
Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to compromise a network or obtain sensitive information (ex: usernames, passwords, credit card details) by disguising as a trustworthy person or entity in an electronic communication.
Like other social engineering attacks, phishing exploits the human element rather than a technical vulnerability. According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation report, “the human element continues to drive breaches,” with 82% of breaches involving a human element such as phishing or misuse of credentials.
The purpose of phishing simulations is to train end-users on what to do when a potentially malicious email hits their inbox. Phishing simulations mimic real-world phishing attempts, testing users on safe behaviors and helping them recognize potential threats.
Additionally, an effective program should include a reporting function. Reporting from the training and phishing simulations provides data on the efficacy of the program to track the organization’s progress and identify where additional training may be needed to address weaknesses.
Cybersecurity awareness training is also increasingly becoming a cornerstone of cyber insurance policies. Reporting and audit logs verify program participation to qualify for coverage and, in some cases, receive reduced premiums.
Alignment with the NIST Framework
Cybersecurity awareness training content should align with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, voluntary guidance that integrates industry standards, guidelines, and best practices to empower organizations to better manage and reduce their cybersecurity risk.
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework includes five primary functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover, with awareness and training as key objectives within the Protect function.
Cybersecurity Awareness Training: 5 Keys to Success
When implementing a cybersecurity awareness training program for your company, keep in mind these five keys to success:
1. It’s Not Just for Large Companies
A common myth among small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) is that they are “too small” to be a target and therefore, smaller businesses may not prioritize activities such as security awareness training. However, cybercriminals know that SMBs don’t have the same resources and network defenses as larger enterprises, making them prime targets. In fact, the average employee of a small business with less than 100 employees will receive 350% more social engineering attacks than an employee of a larger enterprise. Cybercriminals are opportunistic, and a lack of awareness presents an opportunity.
2. It’s About Consistency
Consistency is key. Cybersecurity awareness training can’t be a fleeting initiative. Awareness training should be ongoing across different core topics, with regular phishing simulations.
Another tip? Don’t let consistency become predictable. If every employee receives a phishing simulation on the same day, word will spread, negatively impacting the effectiveness of your program. Look for opportunities to randomize both the message and the timing to better simulate a real-world phishing attempt.
3. It’s About Culture
Cybersecurity awareness and training should be integrated into your company’s culture, starting from the day a new employee is onboarded. Furthermore, all employees, even senior executives, should be included. When cybersecurity is part of your culture rather than an effort siloed within IT, your employees are more likely to engage in positive behaviors that contribute to your organization’s overall cyber hygiene.
4. It’s About Being Proactive
Don’t wait until a phishing attack compromises your network to start building employee awareness. Proactively educating your employees about cybersecurity risks helps them avoid common threat vectors, improving your organization’s overall security posture for the long term.
5. It’s About Empowering Your Employees
Cybersecurity awareness training programs can fail when they are viewed by the organization as punitive measures, which discourages employee engagement. Instead, security awareness training should be implemented in a way that empowers and equips employees with the knowledge to make smart decisions in their everyday online interactions. If an employee does fall for a phishing simulation, are they simply reported to IT for reprimand, or are they given an opportunity to learn about why the simulation was effective and how to avoid falling victim to it in the future?
No matter the size of your organization, if your business is connected to the internet, you’re at risk of being targeted by a phishing attack or other malicious online scam. Do your employees know how to identify these attempts and how to respond when they receive one? Equip your workforce with the knowledge and know-how to help protect your organization from cyber threats with consistent, proactive training that is part of a positive culture of cybersecurity awareness within your organization.
Is ongoing training part of your cybersecurity culture? At Prosource, cybersecurity awareness training and phishing simulations are included in our managed services packages as essential tools in helping our SMB customers protect their end-users and networks. To learn more about how our team can help you protect and power your business, contact a managed services specialist today.