According to latest reports, the cyber security industry has found that cyber-attacks cost businesses an average of $4.35 million in 2022 and the total number of year-on-year cyber-attacks reported have increased in almost every country. Additionally, the analyst firm Gartner has predicted that, by 2025, 45% of global organizations will be impacted in some way by a supply chain attack.
However, despite the growing number of cyber-attacks, statistics suggest that organizations are still significantly underprepared. Around 1 in 10 US organizations have no insurance against cyber-attacks and according to the 2022 Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum, existing cyber security measures are being rendered obsolete by increasingly sophisticated and frequent cybercrimes.
With the number and severity of cyber-attacks continuing to grow and a concerning lack of prevention strategies within organizations, it’s more important than ever to build a workforce that understands how to spot potential cyber threats and remain vigilant, ensuring your organization is protected. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the importance of cybersecurity awareness training for employees.
What is Cyber Security Awareness Training?
Cybersecurity awareness training is provided to educate employees about the various potential cyber threats that can present themselves and how employees can identify and remain vigilant against them, protecting the data privacy of an organization and their stakeholders. The primary objective of cybersecurity awareness training is to enhance the employee’s knowledge and understanding of potential cybersecurity risks and implement measures to protect themselves and their organization from cyber-attacks and data breaches.
Potential Security Risks to Organizations Without Training on Cyber Security Awareness
Employees who are unaware of phishing techniques may unknowingly fall victim to phishing emails, leading to compromised credentials, data breaches, or ransomware infections. These attacks can also be known as whaling in cyber security, where the phishing attack is designed to maximize impact by focusing on senior/high-level executives and leadership figures within an organization.
Exploitation Via Social Engineering
Social engineering includes deceiving, manipulating, or influencing a victim with the intent of gaining control over a computer system or receiving personal or financial information. A lack of awareness about current social engineering tactics could result in employees inadvertently providing sensitive information or granting unauthorized access to attackers impersonating colleagues.
Despite the existing awareness surrounding the importance of password security, 86% of the data breaches recorded in the 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report involve the use of stolen credentials. Employees may currently be using weak passwords or are using passwords across multiple accounts, making it easier for attackers to gain unauthorized access.
Unsecured Mobile Devices
Employees without proper training may use insecure practices on both their personal and work mobile devices, making them more susceptible to mobile-based attacks. For example, by having a duplicate password for both your personal and work accounts, you will be more susceptible to a cyber-attack. Also, accidentally downloading dangerous malware onto your mobile device can cause it to become unsecured and put the workforce at risk.
Lack of Incident Reporting
Employees may not know how to identify and process a report for security incidents, which can lead to the organization’s response to potential threats being delayed, potentially increasing the severity of the attack.
Why Is Cyber Security Awareness Training Important?
One of the core components for the prevention of a successful cyber security attack is creating a workforce that understands and is vigilant against attempted attacks. The 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon found that 74% of breaches involved the human element and a staggering 95% of cybersecurity issues were traced back to human error in 2022. By incorporating an effective cyber security awareness training program, organizations significantly protect themselves from a wide range of cyber threats.
The Importance of Cyber Security Awareness Training for Employees
Recognizing Cyber Threats
Training helps employees become familiar with the potential types of cyber threats, such as phishing emails, social engineering attacks, malware, and ransomware. This knowledge enables them to identify potential risks, take appropriate precautions, and proactively report suspicious activity.
Promoting Secure Remote Work
With remote working becoming prevalent across most workplaces, employees need to be aware of the unique cybersecurity challenges outside the office. Training ensures these are identified and that employees follow secure practices when working from home or other remote locations.
Security awareness training helps employees to not only take an active role regarding cyber security within their role, but it also gives them the confidence to navigate the digital landscape safely both at work and in their personal lives. Having employees that are confident in their capabilities will lead to better performance and security protection in their job roles.
Reporting Security Incidents
It is essential to provide cybersecurity awareness training to ensure employees understand the importance of promptly reporting security incidents to the appropriate people in the team, as well as law enforcement. If employees are competent with the security protocols following a data security attack and respond quickly, it means that the threats could be contained.
The Benefits of Cyber Security Awareness Training for Businesses
While investing in cybersecurity training programs can cost a business money up front, they will end up save you money in the long run. With all of your employees fully trained on the security risks that can occur as a result of a data breach, they will be more aware and able to better defend against this if it was to happen. The financial implications that security breaches and sensitive data loss can cause an organization are detrimental and often aren’t recoverable. As a result, making the initial investment in cyber security awareness training means you can avoid spending more money down the line due to an attack.
Preventing Security Breaches
Data breaches can be costly in terms of financial losses, reputation damage, and legal consequences. By training employees on the best practices of data protection, you can reduce the risk of a data breach and potential legal liabilities. Understanding how to defend against a successful cyber-attack is one of the most important skills you could adopt within a workforce and cybersecurity awareness training programs are the optimum way to gain these skills.
Improved Incident Response
Employees that have received good security awareness training are more likely to detect and report security incidents promptly, which in turn facilitates quicker incident response and containment. Being able to quickly report, reverse or stifle the effects of an attack on vulnerable data or a system means you will be able to recover faster, and a lot of your important data will still be safe.
Customer Trust and Retainment
Customers that engage with a business are expecting their data to be handled securely and kept safe from cyber-criminals. By demonstrating a commitment to creating a secure environment and educating employees on security threats, you will in turn build trust and confidence with your customers. This can also be the turning point for a customer regarding whether they choose to complete their business with you or a competitor.
Compliance with your industry’s regulations and standards is a legal requirement and the negative impact of human error can be irreversible. Offering a cyber security awareness training program ensures you raise awareness among your employees and means you can avoid costly penalties for non-compliance if a security breach does occur.
Advantage Over Competitors
Organizations that prioritize cybersecurity safety and conduct security awareness training can gain a competitive advantage against the market. This is because in the eyes of customers, suppliers, and business partners they will come across as more reliable and trustworthy as they are demonstrating their commitment to keeping stakeholders’ sensitive information safe.
Adaptation to Emerging Threats
By investing in a cyber security awareness training program, employees are kept up to date on new and evolving cybersecurity threats, allowing your organization to keep on top of any emerging risks and adjust the security measures accordingly.
Investing in cybersecurity awareness for your business won’t only benefit you by reducing the risk of a breach of sensitive data, but it will also put your organization ahead in the digital transformation race.
How to Train Employees on Cybersecurity Awareness
Assess the Training Needs
Before providing security awareness training, conduct a thorough assessment of the organization’s cybersecurity threats and weaknesses. Make sure to identify specific areas where there may be a skill gap in employees, or where potential threats may already exist.
Develop a Training Plan
Based on the assessment, create a detailed training plan that outlines each topic you will cover, the format this will be delivered in, and the timeline in which you are going to make this happen. This will ensure you stay on track when you are teaching employees, giving them the most appropriate and essential information to them.
Establish Clear Objectives
Make sure to define clear and measurable training objectives. Determine what you want your employees to learn and achieve through such a program. This way, you can measure progress through tests or simulated attacks which will show how much employees have learned.
Engage Leadership Support
To make a security awareness training program effective, you must have support from the entire team. Enabling support and commitment from top-level management whilst demonstrating the importance of cyber security awareness training will encourage employees to also participate and engage.
Customize Your Training Content
It is essential to not provide the exact same cybersecurity awareness training program to each organization because they will have their own set of digital security needs and risks. Personalize your content to make it relevant to them and their security architecture. Make sure to include real-world examples and case studies relevant to your industry and workforce to make this more relatable and describe how pressing having the right skill set is.
Choose Appropriate Training Methods
When conducting a security awareness program, one training method won’t work for all organizations. To engage employees effectively, use a range of techniques including workshops, webinars, e-learning modules, quizzes, and interactive simulations.
Include Practical Exercises
As well as utilizing different training methods, make sure to incorporate hands-on exercises that allow employees to apply their knowledge in a range of physical security scenarios. This helps reinforce learning and will build confidence throughout the program.
Provide Phishing Simulations
Conduct phishing tests through simulations to test employees’ ability to recognize phishing attempts and respond promptly. Use these simulations as teachable moments to reinforce good practices and increase security awareness.
What Topics Should be Covered in Cyber Security Awareness Training Programs?
Types of Cyber Threats
It is important for learners to know the different types of cyber threats. Most cyber security awareness training programs will cover common cyber threats including phishing, malware, ransomware, social engineering, and insider threats.
Phishing attacks are one of the most common security threats that a business can face. Teach employees to recognize phishing emails, websites, and phone calls, and how to avoid becoming a victim to such scams.
Throughout the program, emphasize the importance of creating and regularly changing strong, unique passwords and the practice of multi-factor authentication to protect accounts. Provide real-world examples of where cyber-criminals have been able to gain access to virtual private networks to offer credibility alongside your point.
Safeguarding data is the main goal behind a security strategy, and it is important to train employees on the skillset needed for this. Educate employees on the handling and protection of sensitive information, both in digital and physical formats, and allow them to become confident in the best practices of doing so.
Secure Remote Work
Nowadays, the majority of organizations offer the choice of working remotely. Because of this, it is essential to cover the best practices for secure remote work, including the use of VPNs and secure Wi-Fi connections. This way, both you and your employees are confident that they will be safe whilst working in their own space.
Mobile Device Security
A mobile device is becoming an increasingly popular target for cyber-attacks. Address the risks that are associated with a mobile device, show them how to protect the sensitive information that they store, and explain the best practices for safe networking. Make sure to also have a plan in place in case the device is stolen or lost, as this can stop any unwanted individuals from getting hold of sensitive information.
Recognizing and Protecting from Malicious Content
Malware is a very harmful type of cyber-attack, so it is essential that employees understand how to correctly prevent their systems from being infiltrated. Specific training regarding viruses, worms, trojan horses, and spyware will be able to provide employees with an insight into how malware may be presented which will make it easier to protect against it.
Incident Reporting and Response
A lot of cyber security awareness training helps to defend against cyber-attacks but doesn’t offer anything past this point. Teaching employees which organizations or security personnel need to be contacted when such incidents happen can shield an organization from facing legal implications. Also, train individuals on how to limit the damage done, whilst restoring normal operations as quickly as possible.
Adaption in Line with Technology Advancements
The world is constantly changing with technological advancements being made on a regular basis, so it is important that employees are kept up to date with their security awareness training. Instead of constantly using the same procedures, provide regular refresher courses that allow organizations to stay on top of their security policies and help to create a powerful cybersecurity culture.
Data Backup and Recovery
Backing up data on a regular basis is an essential component of a cyber security awareness training plan. This will safeguard an organization’s sensitive data in case of an attack or another type of cyber threat, meaning systems can be recovered quickly and easily if this does occur. Having the ability to recover data means organizations can often save themselves from losing customers or vast amounts of revenue.
Investing in the Right Security Awareness Training Program for Your Organization
Elev8 understands the importance of cyber security awareness training modules to help organizations protect their data. We empower our clients to shape their digital transformation journeys and gain a lead on their competitors by utilizing cyber security awareness training plans. Get in touch with a member of our expert team today to find out how your organization can transform and upskill your workforce with our cybersecurity training programs.