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Dave Bykowski

By: Dave Bykowski on February 25, 2022

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Cybersecurity Awareness Training: Why It's Important & How To Take Action Today

Cybersecurity

It’s often said that employees are your first line of defense when it comes to cybersecurity. If they are aware of the latest threats, they can be your greatest asset. If they aren’t, they can unwittingly allow harm to come to your IT infrastructure and your business.  

In the past, many people assumed that cybersecurity was only an issue for large, international corporations. News stories of late would indicate that is no longer the case. 

So what is the best way to inform and educate employees about cyber threats? 

While there is likely a right answer to this question for your organization, there is no one right answer that applies equally to all organizations. 

In this article, I’ll define what cybersecurity awareness training is, why it’s important, and some of the ways cybersecurity awareness training can be delivered.

With a clear understanding of the options, you will be prepared to confidently evaluate your options and decide which approach to employee cybersecurity awareness training makes sense for your organization.

What Is Employee Cybersecurity Awareness Training?

Employee cybersecurity awareness training provides ongoing education about the latest threats to your IT network through a combination of simulation exercises and general information delivery. 

Why Is Employee Cybersecurity Awareness Training Important?

When employees use computers on a business network, they must be aware of (and avoid) potential security risks. 

In the not-so-distant past, grammatical or spelling errors were easily recognizable telltale signs that an email was fraudulent. 

Lately, we’ve seen numerous examples of even the most seasoned (and cynical) employees falling victim to what appears to be an urgent, personal email from someone posing as an organization’s chief executive. The email could request personal tax information about employees or a multi-million-dollar payment to a specific account immediately. 

These requests end up jeopardizing customer and employee data security, harming the organization’s reputation, and causing financial loss.

As the tactics of cybercriminals get more advanced, organizations must step up the ability of their employees to recognize threats and question urgent requests. 

What Options Exist For Delivering Employee Cybersecurity Awareness Training? 

So what are the options? No matter whether you opt for a free training application or the most expensive, customized version, the way the training is delivered is important. In general, there are two options: In-person or Remote. 

1. In-Person 

In-person training has always been held up as the gold standard, allowing for engagement and on-the-fly customization opportunities based on participant input. As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to this approach.

Pros

      • Flexibility 

As is the case with most training, having a live instructor provides the opportunity to spend more or less time on certain modules to accommodate the specific needs of a particular group. 

      • Engagement

While employees watching a video training might be tempted to increase the video speed to get through the material more quickly, in-person training allows for more engagement and interaction with the trainer, potentially enhancing the experience for employees. 

      • Customization

When training is done in person it can more easily be adapted to reflect real-world examples that mirror experiences the trainees may encounter in their jobs. 

In-person training also provides the opportunity to customize the training based on company policies and procedures as well as employee feedback and concerns. This adds relevance to the training that is difficult to replicate when using remote training. 

      • Ownership

When an organization has the luxury of its own training staff, this can enhance the relevance of the training and the buy-in from employees. 

If organizations hire a consultant to provide the in-person training, the organization can drive the content and relevance of the experience. 

Cons

      • Cost

Unless an organization has a robust training department, the cost of hiring an outside trainer and reserving room space to accommodate the number of attendees can get expensive. 

Depending on the level of expertise of the trainer and geographic location, the training could include travel and hotel accommodations as well as fees for the trainer’s time. 

      • Convenience

Trying to get people together in one location for any reason has become challenging. 

Between traveling (whether locally or long-distance), and an increase in remote work, today’s employees may be less likely to embrace the on-site approach. 

      • Time & Resource Intensive

Developing the materials for and delivering training in-house takes time and resources. Researching effective delivery methods and selecting the material to include in the training are both labor-intensive activities.  

2. Remote 

With the increase in remote workers, many organizations provide remote cybersecurity awareness training modules. 

These can be delivered via free apps, contracted services, or customized modules that provide targeted training for specific job requirements. They also can be live-streamed, making the delivery more interactive and effective. 

Pros

      • Cost

The cost of remote training can be significantly less than in-person options. 

Think about it this way, training providers often can use the same generic training for various clients, so each client shares in the development and delivery costs, spreading the cost burden among several organizations. 

      • Scheduling

Some remote options are delivered right to the inbox of individual users, making it possible for users to complete the training at their convenience and eliminating the need to coordinate schedules and provide a dedicated training space.

Other remote options can be live-streamed, making it possible to get a more interactive experience with customized materials at a lower cost.   

Cons

      • Lack of Engagement

As with anything delivered remotely, organizations run the risk that employees will multi-task and not benefit from the full training experience. 

Whether that multitasking takes the form of listening to videos at advanced speed or writing emails while in a training session, focusing on more than one thing at a time minimizes the amount of learning that takes place. 

      • Generic Modules

When training is delivered remotely, the training tends to be less relevant. Modules are generic and there is no chance for users to ask follow-up or specific questions. 

The likelihood also exists that there is less of a direct tie to the business and the real-world issues it may face. This can lead employees to have an apathetic approach to the training.

How Do You Decide Which Cybersecurity Awareness Training Is Right For Your Organization?

When deciding which cybersecurity awareness training is right for your staff, there are many considerations to take into account. As this article mentions, cost, frequency, and method of delivery are three of the top factors

1. Cost

As with all decisions, the cost is always a  consideration. A quick internet search reveals that annual cybersecurity awareness training costs can range from free to $60 per employee, depending on the number of employees, the quality of training, and customization. 

However, cost shouldn’t be the only consideration. When weighed against the cost (and potential devastation) of a security breach, the cost of cybersecurity awareness training takes on a whole new perspective. 

2. Frequency

Just as frequency is important in physical training, most organizational training experts will tell you that frequency matters.

One of the factors that should be considered when determining the frequency of training should the organization’s risk profile. That doesn’t mean that organizations with low risk can forego training completely, but it may mean that quarterly training is acceptable. 

Organizations with higher risk should consider a more frequent training schedule, perhaps monthly. 

Another important consideration in deciding on frequency is the ability of employees to most effectively learn and retain the material. 

An article in the Harvard Business Review (Where Companies Go Wrong With Learning And Development) notes the value of spaced repetition as a learning tool and the demonstrated link between periodic exposure to information and retention. 

According to the article, studies show that spaced repetition yields a general retention rate of about 80 percent after 60 days.

3. Delivery

We’ve talked about the pros and cons of in-person and remote cybersecurity training. 

If you have a small staff that works every day at one site, it might be more effective for you to hire someone to come in and provide the training. 

If you have multiple locations, a large remote workforce, or employees that work different shifts, a remote option may work best for you.

If you have an in-house training group, on-site may make the most sense.

The bottom line is that some combination of in-person and remote cybersecurity awareness training may be the ideal solution. 

What’s The Next Step In Choosing Cybersecurity Awareness Training For Employees? 

Now you know the important factors to consider when deciding about cybersecurity awareness training. 

While all of these factors are important, the best cybersecurity awareness training for your organization is the one that employees will understand, value, and use in their daily activities.  

At Kelser Corporation, we provide managed services that include cybersecurity awareness training for organizations like yours.

While we know that managed services aren’t right for every organization, if you are looking for a provider that offers cybersecurity awareness training for employees and can support all of your IT needs, we’d love to put our 40 years of IT experience to work for you.

Heard about SIEM solutions? Wondering if that is an option for your organization? Learn more in this article: What Is A SIEM Solution? Can It Prevent Cyber Attacks? Do You Need It?

 

About Dave Bykowski

Dave Bykowski is Kelser's manager of information security and compliance. Dave's multiple certifications and nearly two decades of industry experience help him guide businesses in their journey towards cybersecurity and compliance.

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