While the below list of cyber security awareness topics to include in awareness training is far from exhaustive, each should be a foundational pillar of security awareness campaigns and security threat prevention.
Building campaigns around the below can decrease the risk of cyber attack, phishing, and loss of sensitive data – especially when campaigns account for the ABC of cyber security.
Resource challenges and environmental contexts often force those in information security to decide which method or methods to include in awareness campaigns – and in which quantities each should be employed.
In the selected security awareness training topics below, we consider the four different types of security awareness training in turn, the pros and cons of each, and an alternative, increasingly favored approach.
1. Am I really a target?
Most cyber security awareness training begins by talking about security threats. It seems logical. But doing so may be a mistake – because of the human bias for optimism.
As people, we tend to harbor an inherent bias for optimism. Most of the time, it’s a helpful trait. When it comes to cybersecurity awareness, though, our inherent bias for optimism means most of us struggle to imagine ever really being victims of cybercrime.
A good cyber security awareness campaign needs to address this upfront – because discussing threats is largely pointless unless message recipients believe the threats to be relevant and applicable to them.
Phishing awareness training should therefore begin by overcoming a key reservation to taking training seriously. It should begin by discussing why those taking the training are indeed targets.
2. Preventing identity theft
Identity theft remains the most prevalent form of cybercrime. As such, preventing identity theft is key to any good cyber security awareness training campaign.
As well as information on preventing identity theft, cover the warning signs and the dangers of oversharing on social media and exposing sensitive information.
It may also be worth demonstrating how simple it now is to steal an identity. Such demonstrations help make training emotional, and behavior change research shows emotions have an unrivalled ability to change the way people behave.
Demonstrating how simple it now is to steal an identity can therefore change not just security awareness but security behaviors, too – which should be a key aim of any security awareness training or phishing simulation campaign.
3. Passphrases and multi-factor authentication
Today, what constitutes a secure password is becoming increasingly clear. And yet, according to the password manager SplashData, 123456 is the most common password in use today.
Including information on passphrases – ie, secure passwords that are easy to remember – as well as teaching users how to create and remember them, is essential in any cyber security awareness training campaign.
Be sure to include information on multi-factor authentication and build in time for people to update old passwords during training. Increasing security awareness is one thing – but changing security behaviors should be the real aim.
4. Public Wi-Fi
The ongoing rise of remote working coupled with an increase in the prevalence of unsecured public Wi-Fi, make cyber security training on public Wi-Fi essential.
It’s definitely worth including stories to highlight the personal and professional risks presented by unsecured Wi-Fi. Stories such as that of Howard Mollett, who reportedly lost £67,000 in a conveyancing scam, are unlikely to be forgotten.
However, to really drive training content home, consider demonstrating the additional personal benefits that come from using VPN, such as how to stream your favourite Netflix shows no matter where you are in the world!
5. Social engineering, including phishing and SMShing
The UK government’s 2018 cyber security breaches survey polled UK businesses on their experience of breaches. 75% of those that had suffered a security breach had done so following “Fraudulent phishing emails or being directed to fraudulent websites” – ie social engineering and/or some form of phishing scam.
Cyber security awareness training should therefore give special focus to both phishing and social engineering as a whole.
It’s worth thinking about how social engineering training is delivered, too.
Many companies today highlight the dangers of social engineering through simulated attacks, which test people’s response to cybersecurity threats “live” in the workplace.
Such attacks are backed by behavioral change theory: as well as being emotionally engaging, they help modify people’s schema.
Put simply, they train people to expect attacks and, as such, help modify how people respond to genuine day-to-day threats.
6. Browsing securely
The green padlock no longer marks websites as safe to use – a fact few people outside of security actually know.
Few people still have configured their browsers to avoid tracking or form auto-filling. Advice on browsing securely is therefore essential to any security awareness training programme.
Given behavioral change as an overall aim, it’s worthwhile going through step-by-step guides on browser configuration.
7. Device security
As with passphrase management, device security is an area which most are familiar with. Most people know the importance of antivirus software and most know how important it is to keep firewalls running.
And yet the number of malicious actors is growing and malware infection remains prominent year in, year out. Why?
Again, it seems as though awareness is failing to change behavior. In the past, tried and tested content on device security has failed, so security awareness training on device security needs to go beyond what’s been done before.
Framing device security training in terms of the personal benefits users can expect is usually a good idea. For example, CybSafe’s module on device security opens with the line “This module will help you save money by showing you how to set up your computer securely.”
Related to device security is content on malware, which should cover the different types of malware and how infections occur.
As research shows we tend to ignore security warnings, it’s worth including information on the importance of heeding security warnings, or even going one step further and decoding what ambiguously written security warnings are actually trying to say.
Including content on the signs of infection is also crucial. On average, it takes 197 days to detect a data breach or malware infection linked to data loss – yet the warning signs are often clear.
9. Breach recovery
Most security professionals agree on the naivety of failing to plan for a data breach – yet information on breach recovery is seldom included in security awareness training campaigns.
The depth of subject matter necessary will vary depending on the audience.
At the most basic level, people need to know how to report breaches. When training security teams though, more detail will be needed.
10. GDPR and data privacy
The General Data Protection Regulation is a far-reaching regulation and one that leaves those who handle data with some additional responsibilities.
Security awareness training that covers GDPR and, most importantly, puts it into context for various areas of an organization, not only helps organizations comply with the regulation, but reinforces the importance of the secure processing of data – an essential point, but one which some seem to have been forgotten.
All ten topics above are now covered in detail by the CybSafe platform, which updates not just as the threat landscape changes but also as your people’s security understanding and behaviors advance.
After learning about individual knowledge levels and behavior patterns, CybSafe uses behavioral change insights to advance security awareness, behavior and culture. At the same time, it uses machine learning to continually move key security metrics in the right direction, demonstrably reducing human cyber risk.
To see how it works – as well as what’s included – arrange a free demonstration here.
Go beyond mere security awareness training
Learn how to make sense of the relationship between behavior, attitude and security outcomes.
- Know your people with 7 mission-critical security behaviors.
- Understand what is preventing people from adopting smart security practices.
- Find out who, statistically speaking, is more likely to be the victim of a cyber attack.