The Colonial Pipeline attack caused fuel shortages across the East coast, shutting down critical infrastructure and sending the nation into a panic. One simple measure could have prevented this from happening— security awareness training. Simple human errors are to blame for most cyber attacks these days. Strong cyber defenses are important, but strong security awareness is the most important part of a holistic cyber security strategy. So what is security awareness training, how can it benefit your organization, and how do you implement it?
What is Security Awareness Training?
Security awareness training basically means teaching everyone who uses a network how to avoid hacks. This can cover multiple areas including password management, phishing awareness, best practices for using the internet, and proper guidelines for separating personal and work devices.
Why is security awareness training so important?
More than 90% of cyber security breaches involve some kind of human error. Most of these mistakes can be avoided by having a basic understanding of how technology works, and how hackers break into networks. If network users develop good security habits and are able to identify an attempted attack, it can greatly decrease the likelihood of a full blown data breach or ransomware attack.
There are other motivations for security awareness training. With ransom attacks wreaking havoc across the business world, many insurance premiums are also way up. Implementing a security awareness program can lower premiums and cut costs in many situations. Security awareness training is simply a good investment. Studies suggests that on average, the money invested into security awareness ends up saving five times more than it costs. The average cost of a data breach was $4.65 million in 2022, and a data breach can also do massive damage to brand reputation.
This is part of the reason for the “Cybersecurity Awareness Month” which has been observed in the US every year since 2004.
How to implement security awareness training
Cyber security awareness is not a “one off” deal— network users need to learn about new threats as they emerge, and new threats are emerging all the time. Though having traditional training courses can be helpful, it’s important to build a general culture of cybersecurity awareness. An ideal security awareness training program will have multiple elements that complement each other, and plenty of practical examples. The most effective training programs will have fun and engaging content that keeps users interested. The exact structure of a program might depend on many factors, including regulatory requirements and the nature of your organization’s network. Many programs will include a few of the following elements.
Network users can identify attacks much more easily if they understand the basic dynamics of how attacks work. It’s worth having users watch some basic material about different types of attacks and how they work, and then take a quiz on it to reinforce the information. Some topics that are good to cover are malware, phishing, RDPs, man in the middle attacks, ransomware and brute force attacks.
Phishing is the single biggest cause of catastrophic data breaches, so it deserves as much attention as any area of cyber defenses. Phishing tests are a great way to both test and teach security awareness. If your budget is tight, phishing simulation tests are a good area to invest in, since studies have shown they yield more return on investment than other types of security awareness training. Phishing usually involves trying to convince someone to click a link, but ransomware attacks through email are also common. For instance, when the recipient opens an attachment which will download malware. There are an ever expanding number of tricks to get this, including making fake copies of trusted websites, impersonating government agencies or police, and even taking over company emails and using them to impersonate colleagues. A basic phishing simulation might involve sending a simulated phishing attack to all network users, and seeing how many fall for it.
Unfortunately, cyber security best practices can be annoying. For this reason, it’s important to have management or cyber security staff follow up on user behavior and make sure that everyone is following the procedures.
The most difficult kind of attack to stop is one that comes from inside the organization. Ransomware gangs have started trying to recruit employees of companies to help them breach corporate networks, offering hefty rewards for those who do. Corporate espionage is also a reality that needs some awareness. One of the best ways to mitigate insider threats is network monitoring. If someone is active in a part of the network they shouldn’t be, it could be a red flag.
An incredible number of ransomware attacks start out because of using weak passwords or reusing passwords. It’s important all network users follow safe password guidelines, including not reusing personal passwords for work, and always using strong, unique passwords. When it comes to ransomware, this is especially important with remote desktop protocols (RDPs).
How much does security awareness training cost?
If you are willing to put the time in, security awareness training doesn’t have to cost anything. You can design your own curriculum based on templates available online, and implement it yourself. That being said, there are a lot of advantages to using professional services, and it’s still relatively inexpensive. Average programs generally run between $10 to $60 USD per employee, per year.
How long does security awareness training take?
Initial training is always more time intensive than long term awareness measures. Introductory concepts could take as little as a few hours, with periodic updates every month. This content can be very flexible; for example, it could be divided into five minute modules to reduce the risk of fatigue or burnout.
Consultation on Security Awarenes Training
We provide advice on security awareness training for businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises. Our experts will help you understand the specific needs of your business. We also provide an ongoing service for ransomware data recovery, malware protection, and other cybersecurity services.
Additionally, we can provide consulting services on how to best protect your data and systems from potential threats. We understand the importance of data security, so we’ll work with you to create a plan that meets your needs while ensuring the safety of your information.