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7 Key Elements of a Successful Security Awareness Training Program

Security Awareness Training

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Here are the key areas of ‘preparation and practice’ to ensure that your security awareness program is successful.

There is a saying by an unknown author: “Confidence and courage come through preparation and practice”. This wise statement applies to many things in life. It also applies to the design and development of a successful security awareness program. Phishing and malware rates have skyrocketed because of COVID, and as social engineering scams abound, making sure that your end users are ready for cyber threats is vital.

Seven Areas to Prepare for Security Awareness Training Success

A systematic and mindful approach to the development of a security awareness program is the key to success. This success creates a resilient organisation where everyone works in unison to protect against cyber threats, including phishing and malware.

Here are seven parts of the security awareness program puzzle that fit together to build a cyber security culture:

Know What You Are Up Against

Knowledge is power: data breaches, for example, cost a lot of money; in the UK, the average cost of a data breach at a smaller organisation (SME) is £16,100 per breach. One breach would be enough to worry about, but a report from Cornell University and FreedomPay found that 89% of respondent companies experienced more than one breach per year.

The success of your security awareness program depends upon understanding the types and volumes of threats and how the various stages of scams and cyber attacks work. The threat landscape changes quickly, so it is important to stay on top of cybercriminal activities.

Use sources such as OWASP’s Top Ten Web Application Threats and the MITRE ATT&CK; include accidental and malicious insider risks, and seek expert third-party advice to build your knowledge base

Make your Security Awareness Training program successful by having a proactive approach to understanding the information security landscape.

Get Everyone On Board with Security Awareness (Including the Board)

Security is everyone’s responsibility: bring everyone to the Security Awareness Training table to ensure that the organisation has a security-first mindset. This helps to develop a people-centric awareness culture. This culture forms the environment where learning about security threats and how to deal with them can flourish.

Make your Security Awareness Training program a success by engaging with all staff to build a human firewall and imbue cultural thinking that cements security and prevents threats from becoming a full-blown security incident.

Keep Employees Engaged and Make the Security Training Relevant

Engage and encourage staff: design your Security Awareness Training program around engaging and interesting modules. Humour is an important element in learning. Make sure that your Security Awareness Training offers fun, gamified courses that maintain employee attention and focus on the key learning objectives.

Make your Security Awareness Training successful by using fun, games, and relatable content in your program.

Tailor Security Awareness to Employee Roles

Tailor Security Awareness Training: Cybercriminals are savvy about targeting individuals and specific roles within an organisation. In doing so, fraudsters achieve higher levels of success because their fraud campaigns are more tailored and sophisticated.

Scams such as Business Email Compromise (BEC) and spear-phishing are seeing sharp increases because of this success rate. In the UK, evidence shows that half of all small businesses are at risk of BEC. End users such as CEOs, staff working in accounts payable, and system administrators, are all at risk.

Make your cyber Security Awareness Training successful by using a phishing simulation platform that offers role-based phishing titles to tailor the training to the specific needs of high-risk roles in your organisation.

Have an Open-Door Policy to Report Security Incidents

Encourage incident reporting: a successful security awareness program will not only teach staff about how to spot a security attack but also encourage them to report it. Employees must feel confident enough to report an incident without any backlash. Early and accurate reporting of a security incident allows triage to happen quickly to stop the incident from causing damage. Remember that employees are the first line of defence and detection.

Make your cyber Security Awareness Training successful by creating a security-savvy employee that feels confident enough to report an incident. Give them the processes and tools to easily report security incidents.

Measure Success

Metrics of success: an important aspect of success is to prove your success through measurement. A Security Awareness Training program should be able to capture various metrics as employees go through the training modules.

Methods include the use of phishing simulation programs that automatically capture metrics, for example, when employees click on a malicious phishing link. Other mechanisms to capture metrics include surveys, quizzes, and the reaction of an employee to a simulated social engineering event.

Metrics and other forms of training feedback can be used to optimise your program to improve training success rates. Metrics can also provide the information needed to show a Return on Investment (ROI) to management and the board.

Make your cyber Security Awareness Training successful by measuring all possible variables during a learning module. Use a training platform that can capture these results and present them within a dashboard as graphs for at-a-glance views of how the training program is progressing. 

Carry Out Security Awareness Training Regularly

Train regularly: the threats against our business are always changing as cybercriminals work to adjust their tactics to evade detection. Cyber scams, like BEC, are increasingly sophisticated and new methods of phishing that evade programmatic detection systems are always being developed. To keep employees at the forefront of cyber attack prevention, Security Awareness Training must be done regularly.

Make your cyber Security Awareness Training successful by keeping your training modules and efforts current.

Be Prepared, Be Successful!

All these key elements of success are used to build a security-first culture across the entire organisation, including suppliers, contractors, and any other human touchpoints that add cyber-risk.

A security-first approach that works as part of the day-to-day running of an organisation will make sure that your people are always prepared for a cyber attack. This preparedness gives employees the confidence to act upon suspicious events and incidents.

The result is that the success rate of your Security Awareness Training improves, resulting in reducing the risk of your organisation becoming a victim of a cyber attack or cyber scam.

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