How to develop an effective security awareness training program

How to develop an effective security awareness training program

Most organizations know the importance of implementing a security awareness training program, but not all know how to implement effective programs. An effective security awareness training program is equally important to the myriad of cybersecurity tools chosen to fend off threat actors, or more commonly known as hackers. To ensure robust data protection, organizations need to have both powerful IT security tools and empowered employees appropriately trained in cybersecurity risk.

What is security awareness training?

Security awareness training involves formally educating employees on a range of cybersecurity topics. The goal of security awareness training is to ensure team members understand how hackers attack IT systems, and what to do in case of being victimized by a hacking attempt. Training includes vital lessons such as how to spot phishing scams, being wary of potentially malicious email attachments, and identifying social engineering attacks.

An effective security awareness training program can be essential in improving employee response to potential and actual cyberattacks. With appropriate training, team members can avoid becoming easy targets of cybercrime.

How to develop a security awareness program

Listed below are tips to effectively safeguard a security awareness program.

Include the most common types of cyberthreats

There are dozens of ways threat actors will attempt to steal company information, but security training programs must focus on the most common types of cyberthreats. Employees should have at least a baseline understanding of how typical cyber scams work.

  • Phishing is an easy and effective way for scammers to trick users into revealing sensitive personal and business information. Phishing emails often have malicious links or attachments that contain malware. Employees should learn to be alert to indicators that emails are suspicious, such as erratic grammar or faulty email addresses, and be wary of clicking on any link or downloading an attachment contained in such emails.
  • Spam remains an extremely popular method for launching an attack. Although there are mailbox tools to filter spam, employees should be able to identify spam and block/junk any that navigate through the protective filters.
  • Malware is a term often used interchangeably with ransomware and may even be confused with viruses. Employees should be familiar with the differences in how each type of malware (ransomware, viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware) can impact an organization.
  • Identity theft involves defrauding another person by stealing a name, Social Security number, and/or other personally identifying information to commit fraudulent transactions. Understanding how cyberthieves will attempt to defraud a person, such as by stealing laptops, gadgets, or wallets, is critical to avoid becoming a victim.

Outline information security policies

Information security (infosec) policies play a crucial role in business security structures, and company policies must contain clear guidelines to maintain the integrity of business assets. Infosec policies should be comprehensive and include backup and disaster recovery, risk assessment, acceptable use, data breach response, and personnel security.

Note that different businesses have unique security policy requirements. Working with IT consultants like Roebuck Technologies helps organizations identify gaps in IT systems and develop infosec policies that meet requirements.

Establish strong password hygiene and use multifactor authentication (MFA)

Weak and stolen credentials are among the most common causes of a data breach. Security training must establish password best practices such as password hygiene, using password managers, and understanding why strict password policies are important in protecting company data.

Establishing rules for utilizing MFA provides an additional layer of security that complements password policies. So that employees do not perceive the extra steps to logging in using MFA as only an inconvenience, highlight its ability to discover anomalous login behavior patterns, suspicious geolocation user logins, and the type of systems being used to access company accounts.

Recognize and respond to threats

When a breach occurs, employees must act quickly to avoid extensive damage. For instance, upon discovering a computer virus infection, team members should know to take quick steps such as disconnecting from the Internet, restarting computers in safe mode, and quarantining the virus. In addition, employees should immediately report a breach to an incident response team that can investigate the incident, check if other systems and networks have been compromised, and ensure the incident is contained.

Test security awareness

From top-level executives to middle-level managers to interns, everyone’s security awareness must be evaluated to discern if people understand the security training lessons.

A quiz can be administered following a training session to see how well key lessons have been retained, and team members who do not pass with an acceptable score should undergo additional training. Workstation checks are useful to ensure employees adhere to simple policies such as avoiding the habit of writing down passwords on readily visible sticky notes. Another particularly effective tool is to launch simulated phishing attacks several times a year.

After deploying a security awareness training program, gauge changes in behavior toward cyber risk. Are employees becoming more security-aware? Are they scoring higher on IT security tests? Although a workforce that consistently scores highly on IT security tests does not guarantee a breach-free organization, educated teams certainly make it harder for hackers to break through company defenses.

If you’re looking to develop your business’s security awareness training program or want to learn more about the different ways you can protect your IT systems, get in touch with Roebuck Technologies today.

Doug Coleman

Doug Coleman

Chief Operating Officer

Doug possesses over 20 years of expertise in corporate finance, information systems, logistics, supply chain management and competitive strategies. He has served in executive management not only for The Roebuck Group, but also Commercial Carrier Corporation, a nationwide transportation and logistics provider. Additionally, he served in senior management at Vology, a global value-added reseller of technology solutions. Doug earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Master of Business Administration degrees from the University of Florida as well as a Juris Doctorate degree from Stetson University College of Law.