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How to make your security awareness training more effective

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28 September 2021

In the UK alone, 39% of companies have fallen victim to a cyber breach or attack over the past year.

Organizations face a host of consequences when their systems are hacked. For starters, the average financial cost of a cyber breach to British firms is $3.88 million!

But the damage can go much further. A cyber breach can harm a company’s reputation. It can result in the loss of sensitive data, interrupt daily operations and lots more. 

So how can we make sure businesses are prepared to face the growing issue of cyber crime?

Businesses must strengthen their cyber defences to avoid a costly cyber attack or breach. A big part of this is educating people about different cyber threats and how to mitigate them. This is otherwise known as  a security awareness programme.

Are you looking to create a security awareness training initiative for the first time? Or are you looking for ways to improve an existing one? Here are some helpful tips.


Research is king

Before creating and implementing a security awareness training programme, do your research.

You should be clear on the goals of the security awareness programme: 

Who is the programme aimed at? 

How do you plan to deliver it? 

Which areas will it cover?

Without a clear plan and roadmap, you’ll struggle to deliver an effective security awareness programme for your organization. 


Focus on changing behaviors 

Security awareness training initiatives need to go further than simply educating people about different cyber security risks. 

Otherwise, people will just see them as a tedious tick-box exercise. And they’ll continue to make bad cyber security decisions after completing their training.

For effective security awareness training, start by understanding the internal human cyber risk behaviours within your organization.

Using these insights, you can then create well-informed security awareness training that encourages people to improve their cyber security hygiene. 


Teach the right skills 

The best security awareness training equips people with the knowledge and skills needed to practice healthier cyber hygiene. 

When designing a security awareness initiative, think about the biggest cyber security threats impacting your organization. educating people on how to tackle these threats.

Is your organization dealing with an influx of phishing attacks? To counter this threat, teach people how to identify a social engineering attack and what to do next.

As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Encourage people to put their newly acquired cyber security skills to the test in a safe space and reflect on these learnings.


Design security awareness training for everyone 

Security awareness training needs to be inclusive. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so successful training needs to be personalised.

If training tries to be a catch-all, people lose interest and nothing progresses. As a result, they’ll keep exhibiting poor cyber hygiene. 

An excellent way to ensure your security awareness training suits everyone’s needs is by personalising it to suit the individual.

They could be e-learning modules, role-specific modules, essential tips, blog posts, infographics, videos, interactive quizzes, practical exercises and more. Everyone is different, so take that into account with your security awareness training.


Security training isn’t a one-time event

With cyber threats constantly evolving, security awareness shouldn’t be a one-time event. 

It should be an ongoing activity that helps people understand how to respond to the latest threats. 

The best way to do this is by making sure your security awareness training reflects the current cyber threat landscape. If a new threat emerges, putting people inside your organization at risk, cover it in your training.

You can encourage people to continually improve their cyber hygiene by regularly setting goals and sending behavioural nudges.

Also, consider providing an on-demand library of security training resources. Here, people can get relevant knowledge whenever they need it. 

Ongoing support is crucial. When people have any cybersecurity questions, you need to be on hand to provide answers. Organizations must be just as committed as their people. 


Leverage data and reporting

Data is a powerful asset. It is integral in creating more effective security awareness training.

Using data metrics and insights, you can identify the most significant human cyber risks impacting your organization and cover these in your security awareness training. 

Data analysis will also allow you to measure the impact security awareness training has on people. 

If necessary, you can use these insights to improve existing awareness initiatives or inform future ones. 


Grab people’s attention

If security awareness fails to grab people’s attention and get their buy-in, failure is almost inevitable. 

An effective security awareness training programme will make it clear to people that good cybersecurity is vital and that they have an essential role in enabling this. 

But how can you achieve these two things? It starts when creating a security awareness training initiative. Think about ways of showing people how cybersecurity threats can affect their lives. 

Another vital message to share is that while cyber threats may seem scary, people can do things to mitigate these. And it starts with security awareness training.


Don’t view people as the weakest link

Considering that human error is the cause of most online security incidents, it’s easy to blame people for making poor cyber choices. 

But this attitude is outdated. And it can undermine the fundamental aims of security awareness initiatives

Instead of viewing people as the weakest link, think of them as your organization’s first line of defence. 

By giving people the knowledge and tools required for making informed online security choices, you can improve your organization’s entire cyber defences. 


Get everyone involved

Security awareness training programmes will fall flat unless everyone takes part. 

Whether you’re a CEO or an intern, everyone is responsible for practicing healthy cyber security behaviours and contributing to a safer workplace.

But in reality, security teams often struggle to get people to take security awareness training seriously. 

Change will only happen when IT and business leaders work together to make security awareness a fundamental part of organizational culture


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