What Is Security Awareness Training and Why Is It Important?

The risks of being online are becoming increasingly severe for
companies. In the past two years, 77%
of companies suffered at least one cyber incident
. It’s
understandable, then, that organizations would want to implement
measures to mitigate these risks. That’s where cybersecurity awareness
training for employees can be useful. For example, according to Kaspersky’s
research around threats experienced
by companies of different sizes,
inappropriate IT resource use and IT security violation by employees
pose two of the greatest threats experienced by companies, with the
average cost of one incident costing $337,561. Moreover, 38% of cyber
incidents in businesses were caused by genuine human error, and 26% was
due to information security policy violations.

Security awareness training is an essential tool for companies or
organizations that want to effectively protect
their data , reduce the number of human-related incidents, reduce
the cost of the response and ensure their employees understand how to
responsibly handle client data and safely navigate being online.
According to Kaspersky’s 2022
report
, if employees are aware and understand what they need to do
in the case of a security incident, the less the chance of the attacker
penetrating the company’s infrastructure. Developed and delivered by IT
and security experts, these programs share a common goal to try and help
combat the human error that leads to data breaches and stolen
information and that can, by extension, lead to financial losses and
reputational damage for a company. But what constitutes a successful
training program? And how can a company ensure that cybersecurity stays
top of mind for employees? Learn the answers to all this and more
below.

What is
security awareness training?

Security awareness training is an educational program that can take
many different forms. But, all programs have one ultimate goal: to equip
a company’s employees with the knowledge and skills they need to protect
the organization’s data and sensitive information from hacking,
phishing, or other breaches which in turn will protect the company’s IT
infrastructure. There are many different aspects to cyber awareness
training, and a good program will cover many of these to give employees
a holistic skillset for safely managing data and online activity.

By law, some companies are required to comply with certain industry
regulations, such as

the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or even the Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and as part of
these examples, they must deliver cyber security training for employees.
This usually happens once or twice a year to keep employees up to date
on the latest cybersecurity issues, which are constantly evolving.

Why
is cybersecurity training for employees important?

Because so many cybersecurity breaches can be the result of human
error and social engineering, companies need to ensure their employees
are aware of how vulnerable they are to attacks and breaches and are
able to counter these threats as much as possible. This is why security
awareness training for employees is crucial. Effective cyber awareness
training educates employees about what cybersecurity threats exist
against the company, helps them understand potential vulnerabilities,
and teaches them the appropriate habits for recognizing signs of danger
and avoiding breaches and attacks as well as what to do if they made a
mistake or they have any doubts. In addition, many companies will need
to implement cybersecurity training to ensure it meets compliance
regulations.

Successful security awareness programs empower employees to
understand their responsibility for cybersecurity in the company and to
be on guard when working with company data—while online, while using
company devices, and both in the office and when working remotely. This
can significantly lessen a company’s vulnerability to cyberattacks and
data breaches.

What
should online security awareness training cover?

According to Kaspersky’s
2023 Human Factor Survey
, when analyzing the non-human error factor
of how security incidents are caused in the workplace, the most common
employee factor was the downloading of malware, and the second; using
weak passwords or failing to change them regularly. This highlights the
need for a good security awareness program to be comprehensive, covering
a variety of elements that come together to give employees a holistic
view of cybersecurity and what it means for the company. These might
include, for example, learning good password hygiene habits, being able
to recognize social engineering scams, exhibiting safe email habits, and
following legal regulations.

While there are many security topics that could be covered, each
company’s program will be slightly different based on their needs.
However, many elements of cybersecurity threats and protections will be
relevant to every organization, as outlined below:

  • Responsibility for company data: Employees should be aware of
    their responsibility for protecting sensitive information and complying
    with handling and confidentiality laws.
  • Password security: Creating and using strong passwords,
    understanding the need to regularly change
    passwords, and potentially, the use of password managers.
  • Phishing awareness: Recognizing potential phishing emails and
    avoiding scams or divulging privileged information.
  • Compliance: Following regulations, like those of the GDPR and
    HIPAA, for example.
  • Data privacy: Protecting customer data or sensitive company and
    employee information.
  • Insider threats: Recognizing internal threats and vulnerabilities
    coming from within the company.
  • Procedures: Understanding policies and protocols for responding
    to security incidents.
  • Appropriate online behavior: Learning how to safely use the
    internet within the organization’s systems and recognizing suspicious
    sites and sources.
  • Responsible email use: Educating employees on how to safely use
    emails to avoid data breaches and hacking.
  • Use of devices: Educating employees on the best practices for
    using company-owned devices such as laptops and phones.
  • Device security: The need to use VPNs and antivirus software to
    protect company devices from external threats, like malware.
  • Use of software: Understanding what software is allowed to be
    used on company devices—and where to source these—and what should be
    avoided.
  • Email habits: Knowing how to responsibly
    use emails, including recognizing legitimate senders and not sharing
    sensitive data.
  • Remote usage: Protecting devices and systems while working
    remotely, such as by using VPNs or
    remote gateways.

A good cybersecurity awareness training program needs to not only
cover all the topics mentioned above, but should also incorporate
various formats, making the training engaging and using techniques that
aid in remembering the material. Additionally, a good training program
must include numerous real-world cases for employees to feel the
connection with reality. A well-rounded training should not just answer
questions about what is and is not allowed, but also address “what if”
scenarios and what to do if a cybersecurity solution fails to detect a
threat and an attack occurs. Reinforcing skills through simulations or
gamification elements is also incredibly important.

Top
tips for cybersecurity within organizations

Having a comprehensive understanding of security awareness is
important, but implementing the right strategies is equally essential.
So, what strategies should companies be trying to cultivate through
cybersecurity awareness training for employees? There are numerous
measures that companies can take to improve the likelihood of success of
their programs. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Use strong passwords: Password hygiene should be a key focus in
    security awareness training and as such, companies should set strong
    rulesets that include special characters, minimum lengths, and
    mixed-case letters. A company-approved password manager can be useful, as this can
    help employees generate complex passwords that are less vulnerable to
    hacking and dictionary attacks.
  2. Try multifactor authentication: Many major organizations now
    require users to set up two-factor authentication to protect their user
    accounts and emails. This ensures that even if hackers manage to
    compromise the user’s password, it is far less likely that they will be
    able to access the account it is linked to, as they would not be able to
    get the one-time password generated to the user’s cell phone, for
    example.
  3. Deploy fake attacks: To raise awareness of how easy it can be for
    cybercriminals to breach a company’s cybersecurity protocols, the IT
    team can occasionally implement simulations of phishing attacks, that
    demonstrate what these attacks look like and how employees can avoid
    them.
  4. Check test metrics: After deploying attack simulations,
    administrations can compile and analyze the results to judge the
    effectiveness of the cyber awareness training and make decisions about
    how to adapt it.
  5. Regular updates: Ensure that all software is kept up to date so
    that the most recent security patches are deployed through the company’s
    systems and devices.
  6. Limit exposure: Through a company’s security awareness program,
    employees should have a good understanding of what information they can
    or cannot share online, and how to minimize their digital
    footprint.
  7. Use VPNs: Whether in the office or working remotely, employees
    should use virtual private networks
    (VPNs) to encrypt their online traffic and help shield any sensitive
    information.
  8. Regularly back-up data: By ensuring that all data is backed up
    frequently, the organization can ensure that in the event of a breach,
    they can recover as much as possible.
  9. Ensure the management team is on board: Having the support of the
    company’s leaders can be very useful for implementing cybersecurity
    training for employees. Not only will this help ensure the program
    receives the necessary resources, but it can also be necessary for
    ensuring that the appropriate cybersecurity policies can be
    implemented.
  10. Perform regular risk assessments: Cybersecurity is a world of
    constantly evolving threats. Regular risk assessments can help identify
    potential vulnerabilities and threats in an organization’s systems, and
    administrators can then adjust the cyber awareness training program as
    necessary.
  11. Create informative, interactive courses: The average employee may
    not think about cybersecurity on a daily basis and may not have that
    much knowledge about potential threats. As such, a successful security
    awareness training program will offer easy-to-understand overviews in a
    hands-on manner that will help employees understand potential
    vulnerabilities and how to counter these.
  12. Update policies: Because there are always new vulnerabilities and
    threats to an organization’s cybersecurity, it is essential that
    administrations regularly review their policies and, where necessary,
    implement and enforce new ones.
  13. Retraining is crucial: Cyber awareness training is not a
    one-and-done proposition and as such, employees should participate in
    regular retraining sessions that keep cybersecurity in the forefront of
    their minds and their skills up to date.
  14. Begin during onboarding: Cybersecurity training should be part of
    the onboarding process so that new employees understand the nuances of
    the company’s particular policies.

The
Importance of Cyber Awareness Training

In Kaspersky’s
2023 Human Factor 360 report
, survey respondents were asked where
their company was most likely to make investments in cybersecurity in
the next 12-18 months and it highlighted that 39% of respondents were
interested in investing in trainings for cybersecurity professionals,
and 38% were likely to invest in general training in employees, amongst
other areas. It is therefore crucial to understand that increasing and
investing in the cyber literacy of employees is a necessary measure to
ensure comprehensive protection of a company. Not only this, but it is
very important to choose the right educational program that will cover
all the necessary topics and contain modern approaches to teaching to
truly influence cyber behavior change. By involving all levels in the
organization, even C-level, along with the support of the company’s
management, this will lead to the successful implementation and
maintenance of a cybersecure environment.

Related Articles and Links:

How
to prevent cyberattacks

What
is endpoint security and how does it work?

Ways
to avoid social engineering attacks

Related Products and Services:

Kaspersky
Security Awareness Training

Kaspersky
Endpoint Security for Business

Kaspersky
Small Office Security

What is security awareness training?

Security awareness training is an important line of defense for companies. Learn what it is and how to implement a successful program.

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