Security awareness training best practices to help your organization tackle the weakest link in the security chain: Your employees.

The Importance of Security Awareness Training

It doesn’t matter how comprehensive your security defenses are and how much you invested on cybersecurity products, those defenses can all be bypassed with a single phishing email. If one such email is delivered to an end user who does not have a basic understanding of security and they respond to that message, malware can be installed, or the attacker can otherwise gain a foothold in your network.

It is the risk of such an attack that has spurred many organizations to develop a security awareness training program. By teaching all employees cybersecurity best practices – from the CEO to the lowest level workers – security posture can be greatly enhanced and susceptibility to phishing attacks and other cyberattacks will be greatly reduced.

However, simply providing employees with a training session when they join the company is not sufficient. Neither is it enough to give an induction in cybersecurity followed by an annual refresher training session. Employees cannot be expected to retain knowledge for 12 months unless frequent refresher training sessions are provided. Further, cybercriminals are constantly developing new tactics to fool end users. Training programs must keep up with those changing tactics.

To help organizations develop an effective security awareness training program we have compiled a list of security awareness training best practices to follow. Adopt these security awareness training best practices and you will be one step closer to developing a security culture in your organization.

Security Awareness Training Best Practices

Listed below are some security awareness training best practices that will help you develop an effective training program that will ultimately help you to prevent data breaches.

C-Suite Involvement is a Must

It is often said that the weakest link in the security chain are an organization’s employees. While that is undoubtedly true, the C-Suite is also a weak link. If the C-Suite does not take an active interest in cybersecurity and does not realize the importance of the human element in security, it is unlikely that sufficient support will be provided and unlikely that appropriate resources are made available. C-suite involvement can also help with organization-wide collaboration. It will be very difficult to create a security culture in an organization if there is no C-Suite involvement in cybersecurity.

An Organization-Wide Effort is Required

A single department will likely be given the responsibility for developing and implementing a security awareness program, but it will not be easy in isolation. Assistance will be required from other departments. The heads of different departments can help to ensure that the security awareness training program is given the priority it deserves.

To ease the burden on the IT department, members of other departments can be trained and can assist with the provision of support or may even be able to assist with the training efforts. Other departments, such as marketing, can help developing content for newsletters and other training material. The HR department can help by setting policies and procedures.

Creation of Security Awareness Training Content

There is no need to develop training content for employees from scratch as there are many free resources available that can give you a head start. Many firms offer high quality training material for a price, which is likely to be lower than the cost of developing training material in-house. Take advantage of these resources but make sure that you develop a training program that is specific to the threats faced by your organization and the sector in which you operate. Your training program must be comprehensive. If any gaps exist, they are likely to be exploited sooner or later.

Diversity of Training

A one-size-fits-all approach to training will ultimately fail. People respond differently to different training methods. Some may retain more knowledge through classroom-based training, others may need one-to-one training, and many will benefit more from CBT training sessions. Your training program should include a wide range of different methods to help with different learning styles. The more engaging your program is, the more likely knowledge will be retained. Use posters, newsletters, email security alerts, games, and quizzes and you will likely see major improvements in your employees’ security awareness.

Simulation Exercises

You can develop a seriously impressive training program for your employees that looks perfect on paper, but if your employees only manage to retain 20% of the content, your training program will not be very effective. The only way you can determine how effective your training program is through attack simulations. Phishing simulation exercises and simulations of other attack scenarios should be conducted before, during, and after training. You will be able to assess how effective all elements of the training program have been, and it will give you the feedback you need to identify weak links and take action to improve your training program.

Security Awareness Training Needs to be a Constant Process

Security awareness training is not a checkbox item that can be completed and forgotten about for another year. Your program should be running constantly and should consist of an annual training session for all employees, semi-annual training sessions, and other training efforts spread throughout the year. The goal should be to make sure security issues are always fresh in the mind.