A workforce that does not know how to recognize a cyber-attack will be powerless to help you thwart one. That’s where Security Awareness Training (SAT) comes in.
Any organization that’s serious about cyber security needs to be taking a multifaceted approach to protecting against today’s most common cyber threats sophisticated cyberthreats. Secure emails gateways, anti-virus/anti-malware software, data backups—these can all contribute positively to organization-wide security. But without the right security training to go with it, you’ll find there are holes in your armor that cyber scammers can easily exploit.
Investing in a good security awareness training platform brings employees into the fold and makes them part of the solution—as opposed to leaving them vulnerable and then blaming them when phishing scams succeed and breaches occur. Employees deserve the opportunity to get familiar with the threats they could face, so they can protect themselves and, by extension, the rest of the organization, from breaches and attack
What Is Security Awareness Training?
Security awareness training courses are a useful tool that organizations can use to bolster their overall security posture. This training supports the education of users and aims to better prepare them for real-world threats that they are likely to face—both in their physical workplaces and in cyberspace—and to teach them how best to respond to them, and protect the organization’s computer systems, data, people and other assets from prevalent cyber threats.
Those prevalent threats include things like phishing and social engineering attacks, which cybersecurity awareness training can play an important role in minimizing. In fact, security awareness training can reduce susceptibility to phishing by 75%. The training does this by covering key cybersecurity training topics—including password management, email security, phishing awareness, web and internet best practices, and physical/office security—and then testing users on what they’ve learned with mini quizzes and simulations. To learn more about the topics that SAT covers, take a look at our article: What Topics Should Your Security Awareness Training Cover?
The training is also often informed by security experts, with interactive training featuring real-world examples of specific threats employees should be aware of to maintain strong security. Security awareness training also helps security teams to foster a strong organization-wide security culture, meet compliance requirements, and avoid data breaches.
Security awareness programs are a worthwhile investment for organizations of all sizes and across all industries because everyone is a target. Some industries—like healthcare and financial services—may experience a higher rate of targeted attacks and security breaches, but no company is too small, and no sector out of range for cyber scammers. That’s what makes it so concerning that less than 60% of organizations currently are delivering organization-wide training.
Why Should Your Employees Receive SAT?
Tricksters and con artists have existed for centuries—even before our digital age—and, as long as it continues to remain a lucrative endeavor, will continue to use manipulation and clever ploys to get their hands on their victims’ valuables. And, in today’s modern landscape, it certainly is lucrative. The internet allows us to connect instantly with one another, opening up a whole new digital highway that scammers can use to trick individuals into giving up personal data, credentials, financial information, and more.
Organizations invest a great deal of their capital into technology that’s designed to prevent threats from breaching systems. This is certainly a good investment to make, but it will count for little if it isn’t supported by the actions of the organizations’ people. Just like a computer, humans can store, process, and transfer information, so failing to properly support them will inevitably leave a gaping hole in your defenses. Improving security means patching these holes with a variety of tools.
It has been said that the first line of defense should be your workforce. Historically, employees have been described as the “weakest link” when it comes to security, due to the prevalence of human error—but this is hardly fair. Employees are frequently and relentlessly targeted because cyber attackers understand that it is far easier to find vulnerabilities in people than it is to find them in today’s sophisticated modern operating systems or cloud infrastructure. Additionally, close to 40% of data breaches in 2021 were targeted at small businesses, as hackers know they have fewer resources to devote to security.
“Security people say that people are the weakest link. They’re not. They’re the greatest security assets if they are helped in the right way.” — Stephen Burke, Product Director at SafeTitan
Small- and medium-sized businesses are appealing targets and fall victim to cyber-attacks more often than people realize. Stories of large enterprises and governments getting hit with ransomware might be the ones making headlines, but behind the scenes many small and mid-sized businesses are dealing with an onslaught of targeted attacks.
Cybercriminals are opportunistic by nature and are constantly looking for “low hanging fruit”. SMBs can easily fall into this category if they don’t take steps to properly equip their employees with the tools they need to prevent an attack from succeeding. Security Awareness Training is one of the most beneficial tools you can employ to support employees and set them up for success, creating a human firewall to bolster business-wide security.
Key Features SMBs Should Look For
There’s no shortage of options to choose from on the security awareness training market. Solutions can vary greatly in both their approach to training, capabilities, and cost. And while it’s great to have options, this amount of choice can leave organizations—especially SMB owners who may not have ventured into SAT before—a bit overwhelmed.
To keep it simple, we’ve listed the three key features that a good security awareness training solution should have, so you can then narrow down your options based on your needs, tastes and budget.
1) Engaging And Comprehensive Training Material
Not all security awareness training solutions are created equal. Gone are the days of security training being a tick-box activity just to ensure compliance, and that users will mindlessly click through and endure but have no hope of retaining the information. Today’s SAT providers understand that interesting engaging training that keeps users engaged has a significantly higher chance of creating lasting improvements to overall security.
According to a white paper by Osterman Research, there is a strong relationship between the amount of time and effort users dedicated to security awareness training and their level of interest in the content. The research found that users who experienced “boring” training were more likely to spend less time on it (with 43% spending none of their time on training each month, versus only 2% spending more than 60 minutes per month on training), whereas users who found their training ”very interesting” spent noticeably more time on it (with only 4% spending none of their time in training each month, versus 23% spending more than 60 minutes). This indicates a clear relationship between the quality of security awareness training and how motivated users feel to really engage with and spend time on the training.
To keep their training content engaging, vendors will often use a variety of delivery methods. Simulations and interactive minigames, interactive sessions, gamified quizzes, role-playing, bite-sized video content, stories and narratives are all ways that security awareness training providers can better engage users with the important information they are being asked to absorb and retain. Companies providing cybersecurity awareness training should also strive to keep their content library constantly updated, ensuring all security topics and learning materials on their e-learning platform are current and relevant to employees to date with the latest trends and threats.
2) Phishing Simulations
Phishing and social engineering attacks continue to top the charts as the most common cyber-attacks faced by SMBs. Even so, many untrained workers still have no frame of reference to recognize the signs of a phishing attack, and are therefore susceptible to a hacker’s manipulation. This explains why the KnowBe4 Phishing By Industry 2021 Benchmarking Report’s initial baseline security test (administered on untrained users going about their regular duties) would indicate high risk with an average phish-prone percentage of 31.4% across all industries.
Put simply, knowing that phishing attacks exist is not enough. For employees to adopt truly secure habits they will need regular simulated practices. These are known as phishing simulations. These simulated attacks—which reflect real-life scammer tricks within a safe environment—train users by ingraining in them the idea of questioning all correspondence and hesitating before performing any task that involves a potential unsecured action.
Simulated phishing attacks work by sending simulated phishing emails to users with no forewarning, to test how they respond. Will users blindly click on that suspicious link? Will they happily hand over sensitive information or credentials to who they think is a trusted colleague or boss? Or will they stop and question the email, and report one when it appears amiss?
Retaining new information isn’t always easy, and so reinforcing best practices by letting users report suspected phishing emails in real-time can go a long way in building users’ confidence in their ability to spot a phish and solidifying the knowledge they have learned through training.
Many cybersecurity awareness training solutions come with access to libraries of up-to-date, pre-built, and customizable phishing templates, so admins can conduct phishing simulations quickly and easily by simply choosing a template, setting a targeted individual or group of users, and scheduling that simulation for deployment. For further ease, many solutions enable admins to set up year-long automated campaigns, leaving them to automatically run year-round without requiring any further input.
3) Strong Reporting Capabilities
You can’t improve what you can’t measure; this is what makes reporting and user metrics such an important feature of any SAT solution. The majority of security awareness solutions provide a centralized dashboard that gives admins the ability to set up phishing campaigns, track progress, and assign specific training to designated groups of individuals based on their needs. This dashboard also provides granular insight into users’ progress through detailed reports, which include information on pass rates, the number of clicks on “phishing links”, and—for certain solutions—an overall risk level rating for each individual user.
Tracking these metrics means training can be individualized and targeted, and risky individuals, groups or departments can receive further training on their weakest topics. Reports can also be delivered to upper management or C-level executives to demonstrate how well the training program is working. It’s also useful for admins to be able to easily create policies and set out clear and defined learning paths for employees.
The risk of cyber-attacks is a near and present danger for every business today. Security has always been vital to organizations’ wellbeing but today, more than ever, that wellbeing is under attack and companies will need to take every available measure they can to maintain solid security.
Security awareness training is an excellent first step to take in that direction. Security training can have a significant and lasting effect on the behaviors of old and new employees, bringing them into the picture so they are not left to fend off attackers blindly. With an array of training content and simulated phishing attacks at their disposal, security teams can support users’ journey towards security awareness, regulatory compliance, and business-wide risk management.
SMBs venturing into this market for the first time might find it overwhelming, but as long as security awareness training meets the parameters set out in this article it should be sufficient to make a positive impact on security.
For more information on specific security awareness training vendors—including what they offer and who they are best suited to, take a look at our buyers’ guides: