The Importance of Cyber Security Awareness
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Cybersecurity has been a hot topic in business circles for some time now. The number of attacks and data breaches continues to climb. Attacks on big companies make headlines, but nearly half of all attacks aim at small businesses.
Clearly, it’s important for all employees to develop cybersecurity awareness. The question is how to develop effective training programs for their employees.
This guide will walk you through the basics of cybersecurity training for employees. Then it goes over the best practices to help your team stand guard in a world of increasing risks.
The Importance of Cyber Security Awareness
The first thing any cybersecurity awareness program should cover is why it’s so important to be aware.
Many employees think of themselves as Internet-savvy. They believe they know the risks, and they may think they’re taking proper precautions. Some people may not think much about security at all.
It’s easy to think that cybercrime is something that happens to other people or big companies like banks. The numbers show that cybercrime affects individuals, small businesses, and huge corporations alike.
Awareness is so important because cybercriminals are constantly improving their tactics. Your employees may scoff at people who fall for the old “Nigerian prince” scam. Would they recognize more modern phishing and social engineering techniques?
Around half of all breaches can be directly traced to employee negligence. Often, “negligence” can mean the accidental loss of a file or device.
It’s important for all your employees to be aware of cybersecurity risks and ready to identify them. It’s also key for them to follow procedures to keep your information safe. Finally, they need to know how to take action in the event of a suspected attack or breach.
Identifying Cyber Security Risks
The next part of a security awareness program focuses on the major risks facing your company.
Many people think of the computer viruses of the past. Cybercrime has become much more sophisticated. Today, you’re more likely to encounter these types of attacks:
- Malware, programs that install themselves in your computer systems to steal information
- Ransomware, which will hold your systems hostage
- Phishing and social engineering, which involve cybercriminals tricking people into revealing sensitive information
- Email hoaxes and spam, which can carry malware, ransomware, and other dangers
It’s important to stay up to date on all these threats. Some employees may say they know all about phishing, but are they up to date? Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics, so you have to keep up.
Take spear phishing, for example. Unlike traditional phishing attacks, spear-phishing campaigns target specific individuals. Attacks often affect between one and ten people.
Another difference is how much work goes into a spear-phishing attack. The attacker researches the victim beforehand to gather as much information as possible. When they launch their attack, this information increases the authenticity of their request.
Spear phishing is relatively new, and it’s more effective than traditional phishing. It demonstrates why it’s so important to keep employee training up to date. With the right information, your team will be able to identify cybersecurity risks and avoid compromising security.
Social media is another arena for risks.
Go Over Policies and Procedures
This next component of information security awareness training is its bread-and-butter. It’s not enough to tell your employees about all the risks they’re facing.
You need to tell them what to do to protect themselves, your company, and your clients.
This is where policies and procedures come into play. Once you’ve told your team how to recognize certain risks, give them tools to protect themselves.
As a business leader, you’ll want to consider your policies in some of the following areas:
- Data management
- Safe Internet habits, including email and social media policies and best practice
- Physical and environmental security, such as clean desk policies
- Policies about removable media
- Rules around Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) programs
Spelling out expectations in each of these areas will help your employees stay safe.
Data Management and Removable Media
This first area of concern affects businesses of all shapes and sizes. If you collect information from your clients, you have data that needs to be managed. You may even collect information on paper, but you still need to think about security.
If you use apps, computers, or connect to the Internet, then you’ll need to pay attention to data management. Policies for data management should include procedures like encrypting files sent over networks. You may also ask for passwords to access certain resources.
Password security and access restrictions should also be discussed with employees.
Another point of concern is removable media, such as USB keys. These items can be lost or misplaced. It’s important to secure the information on them and then track the devices themselves.
You’ll also want to address how to ensure removable media is fully wiped before being discarded.
Data management extends to mobile devices, including smartphones. Go over security settings and procedures for all the devices your team members use.
Many organizations are allowing employees to bring their own devices to work. This has its advantages, as employees can use the devices they’re most comfortable with.
It can also bring increased security risks. Be sure to lay out security requirements for employees who are using their own devices at work.
You may require certain apps to increase security. You might also ask employees not to use some apps with less-than-stellar security records.
Internet Use and Behavior
You’ll also want to go over how employees should use the Internet, email, and social media. You may ask employees to turn on certain security settings for their browsers. You may also decide to block some sites.
Help employees stay safe by helping them recognize the signs of cyberattacks. Remind them:
- Not to click suspicious links
- Not to open attachments from unknown senders
- To double-check URLs and sender email addresses
- To report suspicious activity
These simple tips go a long way to keeping everyone in your organization safe.
Physical Security Also Matters
The subject of removable media touches on physical security. Devices such as USB keys can be lost, stolen, or otherwise tampered with. Taking care of physical items is another important part of cybersecurity.
Other environmental security concerns include the storage of sensitive information on paper. An employee who jots down their password leaves the door open for someone to log on using their account.
Devices with sensitive information stored on them should be kept in a monitored area. You should restrict and control access to them. Explain these policies and procedures to your employees.
Best Practices for Cyber Security Awareness Training
Now that you know what your training program should include, you face the toughest part of the job. Getting everyone to buy in can be an uphill battle.
Some executives and managers don’t believe cybersecurity is important. That can make creating programs or getting funding a challenge. At the other end, getting employees on board can be just as difficult.
The first step is often getting management buy-in. If the people at the top believe cybersecurity is important, they’ll help you get the resources you need. Their support will also foster a culture of security.
Having top-level buy-in makes it easier to add cybersecurity training to onboarding. You should also put in place ongoing training initiatives. Repeating and updating training is key to keeping employees on their toes.
Making training mandatory for new employees ensures everyone is on the same page. When you’re all working with the same playbook, keeping your information safe is easier.
Culture Advocates and Employee Rewards
Ongoing training will only go so far in building a culture of security in your business. If you want buy-in from your team, consider appointing security culture advocates. You should also be sure you’re rewarding employees who show great security skills.
Culture advocates support and enhance security awareness in your business. They can help you stress the importance of cybersecurity to their peers. They can also lead by example on the floor and help inspire their team members to take action.
Rewards also go a long way to building a culture of security in your business. Highlight employee contributions to security. This can be as simple as sharing a story about how an employee thwarted a threat.
If users report threats, be sure to give them some kind of reward or recognition. This positive reinforcement encourages everyone to take action when they encounter threats.
Level up Your Security Today
With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to increasing cybersecurity awareness in your business. The right training program will help your employees protect themselves and the company.
If you’re looking for more insightful articles about cybersecurity, we have plenty more. Discover why HTTPS is so important or learn about email validation tools and make your business safer right now.