Why Is It Important To Provide Security Awareness Training For Employees?
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018, but has been updated to reflect the latest advances in security awareness training.
Business and IT leaders are acutely aware of the costs of cybersecurity breaches. There are the financial costs (estimated to be millions of dollars per event globally), the damage to your organization’s reputation (which some companies never recover from), and the trickle-down effects on your customers' data and financial security.
Combine these costs with the number of data incidents caused by human error (a statistic that some experts say is responsible for 95 percent of breaches) and you might be inclined to implement employee security awareness training across the board for all of your staff.
But, in case you aren’t convinced, this article will point out some of the other reasons why it’s important to provide security awareness training for employees.
At Kelser, we are so convinced of the benefit of security awareness training that we include it in our comprehensive managed IT support services.
Don’t worry, this article isn’t a sales pitch for Kelser instead, we’ll provide an unbiased overview of the benefits of security awareness training so that you can decide if it’s a good solution and worthwhile investment for you.
I know this is different, but while we are convinced of the value of our managed IT support offering, we know it’s not the right solution for everyone.
Rather than pitch our company, we believe in providing honest information that business leaders like you can use to confidently decide on the right IT solutions for your organization and protect your organization from cyber threats.
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What Is IT Security Awareness Training?
The most effective employee security awareness training comprises a regularly scheduled program of training modules (featuring a combination of simulation exercises and information delivery).
These training modules are designed to keep employees abreast of the latest cybersecurity tactics and tricks. They don’t need to be long, but they do need to be effective.
Using this training to keep cybersecurity awareness top of mind for users turns them into a highly effective human firewall trained to keep company and customer information safe.
Why Is Employee IT Security Training A Critical Part Of Cybersecurity?
Think of it this way: people trained in first aid or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR0 need to take regular refresher courses to retain their certification.
And, we’d never think to send employees to the manufacturing floor without some overall safety and machine-specific training.
In the same way, businesses that want to cultivate the knowledge and skills of their employees to prepare them for their role as a human firewall need to provide training, too.
As we’ve mentioned, innocent human error is the top cause of cyber incidents. That means, that while malicious attempts to bring down a company exist, the majority of cyber incidents can be avoided simply by providing training for employees. Yet, countless organizations still aren’t providing regular cyber training for employees.
The Benefits Of Comprehensive Employee IT Security Awareness Training
Comprehensive security awareness training is designed to provide your employees with proactive opportunities to learn about the threats that exist and the best way to handle them.
Here are some of the ways awareness training can help:
Once they know what to look out for, employees will be able to readily identify threats and be a significant deterrent to hackers.
The fact is that people want to do the right thing and by providing them with the tools, they will know what to do when they spot something suspicious like a phishing attempt or other social engineering tactics.
If you want your employees to know the right thing to do, you must provide training.
Once users know the risks of a data breach and how their actions can potentially contribute to the security of the company, they’ll know how to modify their online behavior.
And, some online training modules provide trackable completion notifications, so you’ll know exactly who in your organization has completed their training and who hasn’t. With this information, you’ll be able to assure 100 percent compliance, making training that much more effective.
When your front-line employees know the risks, the threats, and the appropriate action to take, they become a force for protecting your data and that of your customers. This minimizes your organizational risk and provides an extra layer of security.
What Does Security Training Need To Be Successful?
To be successful, security training needs to be relevant and timely. It needs to have buy-in at all levels of the organization and it needs to be well-planned. Here’s what that looks like:
While certain cybersecurity training modules apply to every organization, there may also be specific topics that pertain only to your business or industry. Consider exploring options that give you the flexibility to target training for your organization.
Technology moves fast, and so do the cyber threats that go along with it. Security training needs to happen regularly to keep up with it all.
Depending on your risk and your contractual or regulatory requirements, you may want to adjust the frequency of your employee security training.
Other events that could affect your training schedule include the implementation of new tools or an unwelcome security event.
In all honesty, you can use internal or external resources to provide the training. Either one can do a good job.
Before you commit to how you will approach the logistics and resources, make sure you have the commitment of all levels of your organization to participate.
Nobody is immune to a cyber attack and it’s important to demonstrate commitment by having employees at all levels participate. To cultivate an information security culture within your entire organization leadership must come from the top.
For the actual training, you’ll want to rely on an internal or external security expert.
Outline your goals
How will you measure success?
Define the participants
While we recommend including everyone, some organizations may have employees who have no computer access.
Identify relevant training material
Decide whether your training will be general or organization-specific.
Consider tracking participation so you can gauge how many employees have completed the training, where there may be outliers that need to be addressed, and the relevance of information to users.
Related article: 3 Topics Every Cybersecurity Awareness Training Must Include
After reading this article, you likely have a better understanding of the value of security awareness training for your employees.
In addition to the obvious benefits (financial, reputational and security for employees, and customers), we’ve covered some of the other advantages: good habits, accountability, and awareness.
We’ve also walked through some of the elements that make security training successful including relevance, timeliness, buy-in, and planning.
With all of this information, you may be ready to take the next step. Deciding whether in-person or online training is best for your organization is the next step and will determine where you go from here.
If you go decide on in-person training and have the resources, you may want to hire someone or assign a current employee to handle this task. If you don’t have the budget or staff allocation to make that happen, consider hiring an outside organization that specializes in security awareness training.
If you decide that your risk is low and online training will provide good overview for your employees, there are free and low-cost options available.
The most important thing is that you implement the appropriate level of employee security awareness training for your organization and risk. And that you continually re-assess and adjust your training accordingly.
While there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility of human error, providing security awareness training for employees points your organization toward a more secure future and greatly reduces your exposure to cyber threats.
Innocent and unaware employee actions can increase your organization’s vulnerability. Security awareness training is a relatively easy and effective way to eliminate those actions and mitigate your organization’s risk.
Read this article for an honest cost-benefit analysis of employee security awareness training.