Why is Security Awareness Training Important?


Organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the risk of data breaches. According to research from Accenture, 68 percent of business leaders feel like their cybersecurity risks are increasing.

Now, though, many are looking for ways to fight back. And one of the most promising appears to be security awareness training. This approach helps to shore up the human element of network security, alongside regular anti-virus software, firewalls, and third- party monitoring services.

What is security awareness training?

Security awareness training is a way for businesses to improve their system-wide approach to cybersecurity. Instead of just relying on software or IT management companies, it gets all parts of the organization working together to reduce the likelihood of breaches.

Security awareness training usually involves asking employees to attend regular classes teaching them about the tactics that hackers use to get them to inadvertently hand over data. Strategies can be simple, such as posing as an authority requiring information. Or they can be much more subtle, such as forwarding you to a fake login page that looks identical to your regular company account.

Simple Plan IT provides custom security awareness and training solutions to businesses. That’s because every company is unique and has individual organizational needs. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in the real world. We also think that it is important that security awareness training be engaging and relevant. Unless it inspires colleagues, it won’t have the effect you want it to have.

Why is it important?

Security awareness training is important because of the changing nature of cyber criminality. In the past, the majority of attacks on company networks were technical. Hackers would attempt to breach IT security using clever pieces of code or sophisticated password-guessing tools.

Today, though, the situation is different. Those old methods are no longer as fruitful as they once were. So hackers are increasingly targeting the human element, (a.k.a your colleagues).

Data from Verizon makes the picture far more vivid. According to the company’s research, an astonishing 22 percent of all breaches involved phishing emails, while only 17 percent involved traditional malware infection. Figures like these indicate that companies need to fundamentally rethink how they allocate their cyber security budget. Spending enormous sums of money on software and monitoring will only get you so far. What’s needed is proper colleague training.

Awareness training plugs the gaps by opening your colleagues’ eyes to the risks that your organization faces. During the course of training, they discover that security breaches cost organizations millions of dollars in lost revenue. And they begin to see how they could potentially be the cause of that loss.

Benefits of security awareness training

So we know what security awareness training is, and why it is important. But what are the practical benefits for your enterprise?

Improve IT defenses

While software can do a tremendous amount to protect your company and prevent hackers from gaining access to your files and folders, it only works as well as the people operating it. Companies, therefore, need people who:

  • Turn on antivirus and firewall software when necessary
  • Update and patch software with the latest security updates
  • Heed security warnings when they appear
  • Monitor systems and remain alert to unusual network patterns

Unfortunately, most employee behavior is a long way from this ideal. Most colleagues simply don’t understand why they should carry out these important actions.

Training, however, remedies the situation. It lets organizations combine human know-how with software to eliminate chinks in their security armor. Proper training teaches people why it is so important to turn on security software, and why updates are absolutely critical, encouraging them to do it.

Boost customer confidence

Training also boosts customer confidence. As a group, customers are becoming more aware of the costs of data breaches. According to a KPMG report, “concerns around data security … are increasing” and, in many cases, users are unhappy with passing over any of their personal information to third-party brands.

Research by Arcserve backs up this assertion. They found that 70 percent of users don’t believe enterprises are doing enough to prioritize cybersecurity. And that more than two-thirds of customers won’t use a company if it experienced a data breach in the last year.

Training, therefore, can be a great way to boost customer confidence in your business, both directly and indirectly. On the direct front, customers see that you’re taking action right now to ensure that your employees have the necessary skills to protect their information. And on the indirect side of things, you reduce the likelihood of phishing, avoiding the negative press and reputation loss.

Become more socially responsible

Due to the nature of today’s cyberattacks, successful hacks are becoming a matter of public concern. It’s not just the company on the receiving end of an attack that suffers, but many other people too.

Both NotPetya and WannaCry started off as small attacks, but they were able to grow in size because certain institutions had not taken necessary precautions. Malware spread from one network to another, creating havoc across the globe.

Today’s customers, however, want companies to be more socially responsible. So firms that do not cater to their own security could potentially be putting the rest of the community at risk.

Given this fact, security awareness training is more than a tool for protecting your own business interests. It is also something you do to protect the interest of everyone else around you. And today’s consumers love brands that do that.

Improve compliance

Data protection laws are a complicated mess. There are dozens of different rules, each of which haphazardly builds on the last. But at their core, they have one notion in common: companies have a duty to keep customers’ data safe from hackers.

In light of this, security training is a critical tool to enable businesses to operate compliantly. It allows them to create a security culture from the ground up.

Following effective training, each employee views it as their personal responsibility to mitigate threats. In turn, this change in attitude takes the pressure off IT departments and makes the entire organization considerably more robust.

Prevent breaches from occurring in the first place

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – security awareness training prevents breaches from happening in the first place. Remember, over 90 percent of successful hacks result from human error. So by plugging this issue, you can reduce the cybersecurity threat that your organization faces by an order of magnitude.

How should you approach security awareness training?

Knowing the benefits of cybersecurity training is all well and good, but how do you actually approach the task?

Make it more engaging

Your employees don’t want to sit through hour after hour of boring lectures. They want something engaging that really sparks their interest.

For this reason, the best security awareness training uses storytelling. Adding characters and events to the picture helps to bring it to life, and stops it from becoming a dry exercise in rule memorization.

Start with the leadership

While training employees to prevent breaches can be highly effective, the whole organization needs to get behind the effort, from the C-suite all the way down. At every stage, the CEO needs to show strong leadership, pointing out the importance of threat mitigation to the senior management team. They then need to carry this attitude forward throughout the rest of the organization to create a culture of cybersecurity awareness.

Identify how your organization will benefit from training

While generic training can teach employees some of the tools they need to defend your enterprise against cyberattacks, bespoke training is invariable the better option. That’s because it can address the specific issues your organization faces. So, for instance, if you’re in the healthcare industry, you can get additional resources to help you comply with HIPAA.

Furthermore, training organizers can tailor their approach to communicate with members of your organization “at their level.” That means that you can get specific training suitable for their level of skill and demographic.

Automate it

Lastly, many companies like to automate their cybersecurity training, perhaps hosting refresher classes every 12 to 18 months or so.

Putting in on a regular schedule brings all kinds of benefits. For starters, it refreshes the memories of existing staff and provides training for any additional hires you might have made in the interim. And on top of that, it gives government auditors robust evidence that you take cybersecurity issues seriously, in the event you suffer a breach.

Final comments

So, in summary, we have learned that security awareness training is critical for meeting current security threats head-on. Hackers are switching from traditional “technical” methods of gaining access to your network to exploiting human error.

In light of this, cybersecurity strategies must adapt. Education and training in cybersecurity issues need to take on a bigger role going forwards because software will only get you so far.

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