Cybersecurity awareness training: 5 Tips for making it as effective as possible

Cybersecurity awareness training: 5 Tips for making it as effective as possible

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” — this idiom is often cited when it comes to cybersecurity because it is true.. Even if your organization has state-of-the-art firewalls and the latest antivirus software, your data would still be in danger if one of your top executives plugs a ransomware-infected thumb drive into their intranet-connected computer.

People in the organization tend to be the weakest links in the cybersecurity chain. Everyone from the rank and file to the C-suite officers may be using weak passwords for their corporate accounts. Many tech-savvy staff members may be utilizing unvetted devices and apps for work, whereas those who lack cybersecurity awareness may not know how to recognize phishing emails and business email compromise campaigns.

However, by providing your staff with cybersecurity awareness training, you can transform everyone from being liabilities into cybersecurity assets. Such training involves teaching people account credential best practices, proper procedures for using new devices and apps, and protocols for reporting phishing attempts, among other lessons. The question is, how do you make these lessons stick? That is, how do you ensure that people will apply what they’ve learned long after the training sessions are over?

Here are five tips that’ll help you do just that:

1. Start at the top

If the CEO takes cybersecurity training seriously, that sends a powerful message that everyone else in the company must take it seriously, too. Senior members must set an example if you’re to make cybersecurity an integral part of company culture. Speaking of sending a message...

2. ...Be careful with how you communicate

Upper management must convey to everyone that cybersecurity is critical to the survival of the organization. Indeed, firms similar to yours have succumbed to cyberthreats, and that everyone’s job security relies on everyone taking responsibility for cybersecurity.

To help shape your messaging, you must first look into the actual risks your organization is facing. For example, you may have many remote workers accessing your on-premises network, and the connections they make may be vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. Your messaging may focus on how using virtual private networks (VPNs) can keep hackers from ever stealing data in transit, and that training staff on how to use VPNs will help them work without worry.

In short, cyberthreats must be presented as something that can be effectively dealt with and everyone, including non-IT staff, can actually do something about these threats.

3. Make it engaging

Don’t let your non-IT trainees get lost in the technical aspects of cybersecurity. If things start going over their heads, they may just disengage and absorb nothing. However, you can avoid this by utilizing case studies and anecdotes — stories that people can relate to.

For example, you can show how ridiculous the Nigerian prince emails are, then reveal how new phishing emails are more convincing. The first example is likely to make your trainees laugh and become more receptive, while the second example will impress upon them the notion that phishing is no longer a laughing matter.

4. Update your company policies

Protocols taught during the training must be included in your company policies. Any contradictions must be eliminated, otherwise staff may become confused as to what actions they must actually take. For instance, staff may be taught that shadow IT is bad for the organization. However, if upper management does not put IT asset vetting procedures in place, then staff may feel that they’re literally left to their own devices and therefore continue using unvetted devices and apps. When this happens, the training would have been for nothing.

Training, in essence, is for modifying behaviors — and policy updates ensure that people abide by the new ways of doing things. Therefore, the training can be said to be successful if the new behaviors become the norm in the organization.

5. Practice for worst-case scenarios

Adverse IT events are stressful and nerve-wracking, and people may crack under the pressure. They may forget everything they’ve learned and fail to respond to the situation appropriately. This is why it’s important to run simulations to help staff practice what they’ve learned and also determine the things they need to brush up on.

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