Why Security Awareness Matters

cybersecurity plan sign held by woman
By Sharee English, CEH, C/HFI, MCT

3 minutes

There’s an epidemic of cybersecurity threats; no one’s data is safe.

For the past several years now, 93% of digital attacks attempt to exploit the human factor, according to a recent study by IBM. People represent the “human factor” in the crosshairs of cyber attackers. The only defense against such attacks is education—or in industry terms, “security awareness training.” 

Indeed, cybersecurity awareness training is an essential knowledge that enterprises can’t afford to overlook. Let’s face it. Much of today’s conventional cybersecurity training is simply an annual, check-the-box exercise. Unfortunately, lackluster training often results in employees being unprepared to recognize or respond to real and evolving threats.

Don’t Just Set it and Forget It

Because of the rapidly changing environment and the long list of vulnerabilities, security awareness training also cannot involve a one-shot or a “set it and forget it” approach. Most people grab their mobile phones first thing when they wake up. Why? Well, it’s a habit. And, according to research on habit formation and behavior change, repetition is a critical step in forming a well-entrenched habit. So, when it comes to online cybersecurity training for employees, make sure to offer it often, and with plenty of opportunities for practicing safe online behaviors in between. 

Continuous training will also allow you to incorporate policy changes and information about the latest scams into your training. Much like technology, cybersecurity is continuously evolving, and staying up to date could be the difference between keeping your company safe or not. 

Don’t settle for off-the-shelf training module or basic web course, but rather invest in professional cybersecurity awareness experts who can work directly with your organization. This kind of dedicated training lets them fashion a practical defense strategy that addresses your unique corporate structure, data sensitivity and employee needs. It also allows your company to determine the tone of your cybersecurity culture.

Create a Human Firewall

So, is training the problem? Are people the problem? The problem is that without an embedded culture of cybersecurity awareness and enforcement, fancy and expensive cybersecurity defense systems aren’t going to do you much good. An informed, vigilant workforce is one of the most important defenses against cyberattacks. Hackers know that most workers tend to be helpful and trusting, so they execute attack strategies that exploit human vulnerabilities. Even boardroom leaders are targeted and fall victim to socially-engineered emails that deploy malicious cyber weapons into the company’s network.

A successful human firewall depends on a culture of vigilance that helps change user behavior to mitigate risk. The best employee programs simulate real-world hackers and provide on-the-spot training when employees fall victim.

Change Employee Behavior and Reduce Risk

Your employees are your first and primary line of defense against online crime. That’s where cybersecurity awareness training comes into play—equipping your employees with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves from criminal elements.

Cybersecurity awareness programs should include:

  1. An understanding of your business strategy, key risks and current corporate culture
  2. Engagement with your vital user communities to confirm risk areas and brainstorm big ideas for your program
  3. A tailored and measurable security culture program, along with messages and methods aligned to your business
  4. Direct or supplemental expertise to drive implementation (e.g., strategy, content development, training and coaching)
  5. A calendar of topics to keep employees engaged and up to date on the latest scams throughout the year

When it comes to considering the cost of cybersecurity awareness and response situation training, consider the price to prevent cyber threats from penetrating your organization
to the financial impact of a successful cyber attack. It’s peanuts, and this single deposit on the security of your company’s future could well pay off, keeping you from losing significant profits to criminals who may already be targeting your brand and your customers. 

The argument for educating employees on cybersecurity is a simple one: If employees don’t know how to recognize a security threat, how can they be expected to avoid it, report it or remove it? They can’t.

Sharee English, CEH, C/HFI, MCT, is chief security officer at WECybr, has a Master’s degree in cybersecurity and over 20 years in the technology field. She is a certified ethical hacker, a certified computer hacking forensics investigator, and is in the top 5% of Microsoft certified trainers. Her passion is to help companies navigate technology and implement cybersecurity practices to protect their businesses.

Check out this related Webinar!

Sharee English will present "Cybersecurity - It's an Everybody Thing" at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3.
Register now!
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