Virtual training

The Critical Role of Cybersecurity Awareness Training in Cyber Risk Management

The CloudShare Team

Nov 28, 2023 - 4 min read
The Critical Role of Cybersecurity Awareness Training in Cyber Risk Management

People will always be the weakest link in an organization’s defenses. That’s why workplace cybersecurity and employee training go hand in hand in the modern workplace.

Don’t believe us? Just look at the data. According to researchers from Stanford University, roughly 88 percent of all data breaches are the result of human error. For comparison, Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report puts that number at 74 percent.

Research by cybersecurity company Trend Micro, meanwhile, found that nearly 91 percent of cyberattacks begin with a spearphishing email – a tactic that uses information about a target in an attempt to trick them into either downloading malicious software or giving up account credentials.

This remains as true today as it did twenty years ago. And it will be just as true twenty years from now as it is today.

In order to protect your organization and manage cyber risk, you need to keep your employees educated, aware, and informed.

Bypassing the Walls: Why Cybercriminals Target Humans

Modern companies, particularly large ones, now have access to an impressive array of cybersecurity tools, from AI-driven threat detection to sophisticated authentication. The time and effort required to break through these defenses would very nearly eclipse the return on a successful attack. What many of these organizations forget is that network and infrastructure security are only part of the equation.

Cybercriminals are well aware of this. They know that the easiest way to gain access to a business’s network and assets isn’t by drilling through the firewall. It’s by fooling Bill from accounting into giving them his credentials.

To use a simple analogy, one can conquer even the most impenetrable castle by convincing someone to open the gates – there’s no need to go to the trouble of bringing down the walls.

The Relationship Between Employee Training and Cybersecurity

While they vary in caliber and sophistication, all social engineering attacks all share one characteristic. They rely on ignorance and carelessness in order to succeed. An organization with a mindful and knowledgeable workforce is, therefore, a much less attractive target.

It’s for this reason that companies can no longer rely solely on security professionals and technical controls to protect themselves and prevent cyber incidents. Instead, they need to teach employees how to identify and avoid phishing and other social engineering attacks. They need to train people across the organization on the basics of password hygiene, network security and digital safety.

These are the basic tenets of cybersecurity awareness training. By educating users, it reduces the risk they pose from a security perspective. While the specific value of cybersecurity is often difficult to quantify, a study conducted by Osterman Research found that the ROI of an effective security awareness training program can be as high as 562 percent for a large organization.

This is all assuming your security awareness training is effective. You need to not only focus on the right topics but also deliver your training in the right way.

What Should Your Security Awareness Training Encompass?

Generally speaking, security awareness training should cover the following:

Passwords

Explain why weak passwords represent such a significant security risk and why password sharing is dangerous. Walk learners through the elements of a strong password and the importance of multi-factor authentication. Provide them with a password manager and train them in the use of the software.

Remote Employee Training

Go over how to keep mobile devices and laptops secure when working remotely. Emphasize the importance of promptly installing updates, avoiding public WiFi and using a VPN when connecting to an unfamiliar network. Explain the process and justification of encrypting sensitive data and using biometric authentication along with safe browsing practices.

Social Engineering

Detail the anatomy of a social engineering attack, including the most common manipulation tactics a criminal might use. Show employees how to identify a phishing attack and emphasize the importance of verifying a person’s identity and legitimacy before downloading any files or sharing sensitive information. Incorporate a process for reporting and remediating suspicious emails, calls, and messages.

Security Hygiene

Help employees understand their role in securing sensitive systems and data. Teach people to practice greater mindfulness and caution in the workplace, particularly when sending, receiving, and storing sensitive data. Walk everyone through your access control policies and the rationale behind them.

Cloud Security

Ensure people understand how to leverage SaaS applications securely through cloud-based employee training. Detail best practices for cloud security, including multi-factor authentication, data encryption, and the risks associated with unsecured, unapproved third-party applications.

Third-Party Security

Explain how third parties such as vendors, service providers and contractors impact organizational security. Establish processes for managing third-party risk.

Best Practices for Cybersecurity Awareness Training

There are a few steps you can (and should) take to ensure you cover all your bases for employee cybersecurity awareness:

  • Don’t simply host a training session every other quarter. Educate employees on a consistent, ongoing basis.
  • Incorporate new and emerging tactics and techniques into your training.
  • Develop a culture of cybersecurity complimented by a culture of continuous learning.
  • Find ways to make training more engaging, such as gamified mock security exercises.
  • Reward employees for exceptional performance in their training, and avoid punishing employees who perform poorly.
  • Contextualize and personalize your training by explaining how it might apply to an employee’s personal life.
  • Adapt your training to several different learning models, and give employees a choice of which to engage with.
  • Measure the effectiveness of your training, using analytics to tweak and optimize.

Cybersecurity Begins With Your People

Too many businesses spend all their time and effort shoring up technical cybersecurity while ignoring the human element. Don’t make the same mistake. While cybersecurity awareness training isn’t guaranteed to prevent your employees from falling prey to a cybercriminal, it will significantly improve their chances of recognizing and avoiding an attack.

And it will significantly reduce the chance that your organization ends up in the news due to a data breach.

Not sure where to start with your cybersecurity awareness training? Learn how to create a highly effective corporate cybersecurity training program, then read about the basics of cyber resilience training.