Employees serve as the outermost layer of an organization’s security strategy. But too many businesses fail to train them effectively to recognize and report hacking attempts and threats. Consistent, carefully designed training educates employees and cultivates enhanced security awareness across the workforce. Characteristics of an effective program include:
- Customization for businesses: Training should align with potential vulnerabilities and analyze the results of employee testing.
- Customized training for different roles: For example, customer-facing employees may face threats that internal teams don’t.
- Educate, don’t automate: Rote, standardized trainings don’t always encourage learning.
- Relevance: Programs should incorporate current and emerging tactics.
- Governance: Responsibility for strategy, compliance, and accountability must be defined and incorporated into the training program.
- Prioritization: Training must continue even when teams are busy with other projects and responsibilities.
Here are some stats to keep you awake at night: 84% of organizations in a 2021 survey reported experiencing a security incident caused by human error. The same survey notes that 73% fell victim to phishing attacks. In fact, compromised credentials were the cause of a fifth of all breaches in 2021, with an average cost to businesses of $4.37 million.
It can’t be repeated often enough: employees are the outermost layer of your overall security strategy. With credentials and log-in information that grant access to your infrastructure, they hold the keys to the kingdom. Even if you don’t think your business stores information that’s valuable or sensitive enough to hackers to steal, consider the risks of having your network access shut down, or your website replaced with malicious or offensive content. That risks damage to your brand reputation as well as the downtime costs, which can quickly add up. So a robust training program that starts with onboarding and continues on a consistent basis is essential.
Most businesses do have some sort of training program in place. The problem is that it might be a standardized version that checks off a box required by insurance, or it may not be tailored to the specific needs of a business. A one-size-fits-all training system is most likely insufficient to protect your network and data. When it comes to developing an effective strategy and plan for training your employees to be effective sentries for your systems, there are several considerations and best practices to incorporate.
Training should identify and incorporate areas of vulnerability unique to the business, and analyze testing results and behaviors. For example, there may be a particular tactic that employees tend to fall prey to, or employees may proactively warn or question coworkers about suspicious emails or communications (or, conversely, fail to do so, causing even more damage). This information can drive more targeted training to further bolster security awareness as well as reveal where additional security measures are needed across the business. Similarly, regularly analyzing testing results in aggregate can also reveal valuable, actionable insights.
A developer will have more access to sensitive systems and data than a receptionist, so it makes little sense to give them the same training. Organizational culture and roles also should be considered—employees who feel rushed or under pressure may be more likely to fail to notice the hallmarks of a suspicious email or click on a link, certain departments may receive more external emails, etc. Training should also be aligned with the systems and applications different employees use.
Many training programs offer random, standardized tests, and then require employees who fail to read or watch something and answer questions until they pass. Such rote, automated courses often don’t effectively teach the skills they need to recognize phishing emails or other hacking attempts on their own.
Training should be based on what employees might experience in the real world, so it should incorporate evolving and emerging techniques and tools that hackers actually use, rather than theoretical, general, or outdated scenarios. This makes it more likely that employees will recognize attempts when they happen.
It’s tempting to have an internal IT or HR team manage training, but they may not have the capacity to effectively oversee programming throughout the year and manage governance duties in addition to their regular responsibilities. In addition, they may not have the specialized skills and knowledge to analyze reports and use the findings to improve existing IT infrastructure security and policies. Finally, compliance and accountability can become an issue, especially when it comes to making sure new hires and employees complete the required training, or if individuals feel pressured by managers to make exceptions for certain employees.
Regular security training should continue even when teams are faced with unexpected or other high-priority projects. When it is managed internally or by teams with other responsibilities, it’s all too easy for training to be overlooked or delayed for tasks perceived as more important. Security should be at the top of your company’s priority list at all times, with consistent training as an integral aspect of maintaining it.
A consistent security training program that’s designed for your business adds another layer of security, enhances awareness among end users, and reinforces good security hygiene and habits across the workforce. Make sure your employees have the knowledge they need to successfully defend your business’s data and networks from intrusion: contact us to learn more about Handled’s security training program.
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