Cybersecurity training awareness

Why Is Cybersecurity Awareness Training Important For Your Employees?

When hackers broke into Yahoo’s databases in 2013 and 2014, they successfully walked away with the information of all its 3 billion user accounts. Till date, both the data breaches remain the largest in the entire history of the Internet.

Skip forward to today, the year 2018 has been dominated with news of cybersecurity incidents striking companies like Facebook, MyFitnessPal, Quora, Chegg, Google+, Exactis, Marriott Starwood, and the list goes on!

However, it’s not just the big names that are getting targeted by cybercriminals. According to Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, 61% of data breaches were aimed at small businesses – up from 53% in 2016.

All of this indicates that cyber threats are more prevalent than ever before, which is why organizations simply can’t afford to roll the dice when it comes to their employees’ preparedness in the event of a cybersecurity incident.

Why you need to educate your staff about cybersecurity?

If your business has employees, cybersecurity awareness training is vital to your survival. As cyberattacks become more sophisticated and the amount of information stored online increases, most industries are facing the daunting task of fighting against ever-growing cybercrime.

Organizations implement complex IT protocols, network firewalls, and multiple cyber defense technologies to keep themselves and customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) safe against the myriad of threats that lurk online.

importance of security awareness training

The problem, however, is that until you foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness and preparedness company-wide, those expensive systems are as good as useless! At the end of the day, your employees are the weakest link in your business’ cybersecurity.

Hackers are also aware of the “human factor” and exploit it using different techniques to gain access to secure networks and steal data. However, you can diminish your susceptibility to certain types of cyberattacks by educating your staff through cybersecurity awareness training.

What cyber threats your employees should know about?

Your cybersecurity awareness training must focus on the most recent and persistent cybersecurity issues. The more your staff knows, the more they’ll be able to spot and prevent the following kinds of cyber threats:


phishing awareness

Phishing has been around since the early 90s, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The main question here though is, how come it’s still so successful? Well, that’s because phishing relies solely on human error.

In simple terms, it involves obtaining sensitive information such as credit card details and login credentials from an unsuspecting victim via email, text message, or telephone by posing as a legitimate institution or entity.

Phishing attempts have increased by 65% over the last year, as per PhishMe’s 2017 Enterprise Phishing Resiliency and Defense Report. Without appropriate training, these types of cyberattacks will only continue because there will always be new ways to deceive people into revealing information.


man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks

A man-in-the-middle (MITM) is form of eavesdropping attack where perpetrators position themselves as a relay in the communications between users or systems so that they can exploit conversations, real-time transactions, and data transfers. They usually involve two types of interception:

  1. Between you and peers on your corporate network
  2. Between you and an open Internet access point

As a result, hackers are able to easily gather sensitive information such as company secrets, credit card numbers, and legal documents. However, it’s their ability to alter and corrupt information that makes man-in-the-middle attacks so dangerous.

To reduce the risk of falling victim to MITM attacks, organizations should provide their employees with company phones instead which are secured by a strong passcode as well as robust VPN service – like yours truly – for safe remote access!


wannacry ransomware

Though ransomware infections have reduced over the past 12 months, they still are a major threat to organizations – regardless of the industry. After all, new variants are appearing every day in the cyberspace which are not only more evasive but also lethal.

Basically, ransomware is a type of malware that denies authorized users from accessing a computer system or data unless a ransom is paid. It’s typically spread via phishing emails, downloading a malicious attachment, or visiting an infected website.

The consequences of such a cyberattack can be very devastating. For instance, the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 affected over 200,000 computers in 150 countries, and caused damages worth billions of dollars.


password cracking techniques

Cracking refers to the act of gaining unauthorized access to a secured computer system often on a network in order to view, steal, or corrupt data. The bad guys make use of automated software to systematically enter all possible password combinations until they’re able to get in.

The average business employee manages 191 passwords, according to a report from LastPass. 81% of data breaches leverage either weak and/or stolen passwords, but in spite of that 61% of people use the same – or similar – passwords for multiple accounts.

If passwords aren’t complicated enough, they can easily be cracked especially if the attacker has sufficient time and resources on their hands. Ultimately, businesses will always be susceptible to cracking attacks unless employees are forced to create sophisticated and unique passwords.

Internet of Things

the internet of things

The IoT has made our lives easier in so many different ways, but it’s plagued with security vulnerabilities that can make your organization more vulnerable to hackers. Moreover, if a large number of these smart devices are coordinated for an attack, the results can be catastrophic.

The 2016 Dyn cyberattack, which made large portions of the Internet unavailable to users in North America and Europe, is an ideal example of what we’re talking about. According to Gartner, there will be 20.4 billion IoT devices by 2020!

As more and more smart devices go online, the IoT presents a considerable threat to your organization and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if it becomes one of the most targeted areas by cybercriminals in the coming years.

Key elements of an effective cybersecurity awareness training program

The importance of a cybersecurity awareness training program can’t be understated, but what makes one successful? While there a variety of factors that contribute towards success, some of the most importance elements for building a solid awareness program within your organization include:

C-Level Participation

Cybersecurity awareness is a core responsibility of the top tech leaders in your organization – like HR and CISO managers – and they’re held liable for its success or failure.

So, if you want to successfully enforce a security awareness program, you’ll first need to get your C-level executives on board. This consequently means larger budgets, increased freedom, as well as more support from other departments.

Involve Other Departments

Successful cybersecurity awareness training programs include involvement from other departments. They often have mutual interests and may be willing to provide additional resources, like distribution or funding.

Together, these departments can also make it mandatory to undertake security awareness training. For instance, the legal and compliance departments can make it a required component of other organizational processes.

Be Comprehensive and Relevant

Since cyberattacks leverage multiple threat vectors, your security awareness program should be as comprehensive as possible. Information can be distributed through various awareness mediums, like newsletters, simulations, blogs, etc.

Moreover, you can’t expect your awareness program to be effective if you don’t focus on providing timely information. Refer to mainstream attacks, such as NotPetya for example, to demonstrate the relevance of your cybersecurity awareness efforts.

Make Trainings Intriguing

Probably the biggest issue with cybersecurity awareness training is the inability to evoke employee interest and enthusiasm. It doesn’t come as a surprise because security is a pretty serious subject in itself, and eventually it may become dull and boring.

Keeping this in mind, humor in the form of funny stories or videos can be a welcome ingredient in your program – it’ll create a positive environment and excitement among trainees.

Give Immediate Feedback

A great way to reinforce cybersecurity awareness is to provide ‘hands-on’ training activities. For instance, you can routinely test employee preparedness by implementing a phishing training program and evaluating how they react to the cyber threat.

This type of training, however, is most effective when you can provide immediate feedback. If an employee clicks on a phishing training email, give them a brief presentation on phishing indicators without waiting any further.

Assess & Repeat

To keep your cybersecurity awareness program from stagnating, make sure you make the required modifications to constantly improve it. This can be done by taking note of where it began and how it’s progressed.

Therefore, metrics will play a key role in determining whether or not your organizations’ learning goals are being fulfilled. They can be collected before and after training efforts via interviews, surveys, and automated data collection during simulations.

Reward Secure Behaviors

When your employees demonstrate appropriate security behaviors, you must let them know that they’re on the right track. While a simple pat on the back will possibly do the job on some occasions, in others it would not.

For this reason, creating a reward structure that gives your employees incentives based on their actual behaviors is essential. Rewards can include anything from free leisure activities and gift cards to what not.

Wrapping Things Up

As we conclude this article, there’s just one thing to mention: you can’t turn back the clock when it comes to cybersecurity awareness within your organization, but you can most definitely prep your employees and technology today for a better and safer tomorrow!

Have anything else to add? Voice your thoughts via the comments section below, and we’d be more than happy to get back to you!

Haris Shahid has a genuine passion in covering the latest happenings in the cyber security, privacy, and digital landscape. He likes getting out and about, but mostly ends up spending too much of his time behind a computer keyboard. He tweets at @harisshahid01

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