Knowledge is power, or so the adage goes. Applying that wisdom to cybersecurity training can reduce the risk of data breaches and other security issues, so long as your employees take the information to heart and actually apply it within organizational operations.
Training programs and strategies are essential for every business to implement. But not all of those are as effective in practice as they are on paper. Here’s a look at some of the best practices for successful cybersecurity training.
The Purpose of Training and Awareness
Cybersecurity training and awareness need to be a focus for everyone involved in your business. From entry-level employees to executives, the entire team needs to be on board to have any real lasting effect. One critical mistake that many businesses make when first implementing new training is approaching it as a simple educational issue.
Everyone needs to be aware of the risks involved and why security must be a critical focus in our modern digital age. But more important than simple awareness is the fact that the real purpose of any training is to create a shift in the culture and behavior of your company for the better. If this gets lost in translation, you’ll face an uphill battle when it’s time to put the training into action.
By understanding this critical initial concern, you can create the foundation for fundamental changes at every level of your organization that can impact its ongoing security needs for the better. If training turns into another boring presentation that feels more monotonous than engaging, you will struggle to make significant behavioral shifts. You’ll be left with little to no improvement in security practices, which is bad news for everyone involved.
Employees Must Understand Importance
Awareness is a good first start for any cybersecurity training plan, but it simply cannot be the only tactic used. Employees need to truly understand why security is important and how their actions have the potential to compromise ongoing efforts to reduce the risk of data breaches and other issues. They need to realize that their day-to-day informed and safe behavior within the workplace (whether that’s on-site or remote) is paramount in establishing safer and more secure systems and networks.
Effective Cybersecurity Training Essentials
How can you stress the importance of safe behavior and choices without making it seem like it is an attempt at regurgitating corporate jargon to satisfy the higher-ups? The training needs to be engaging, informative, and practical. It also must establish that every member of the organization is equally important when it comes to best practices and daily digital behavior. Here are some tips to help you cover the essentials to get the messaging across as effectively as possible.
- Keep it short. Any work-related training or presentation is only good if it captures the attention of its viewers. And employees can have a very limited attention span in the workplace. You want to keep training materials on the shorter side to capture engagement without seeming drawn out. Consider multiple shorter sessions rather than long marathon training days.
- Keep messaging relevant. You also want to make sure that the training session is directly relevant to your organization and not generic training awash with nonspecific action items. Try to use wording that employees recognize because it is in line with other materials they might already be familiar with. Talk about the networks, systems, and applications used by your company rather than referencing hypothetical examples.
- Use relatable examples. People learn better through real-life examples. By using examples within the training program that employees can quickly relate to, you can increase their retention of the material provided in the session. If your company has already experienced a data breach or other security issue, breaking down this incident in-depth can serve as a valuable example to aid in effectiveness.
- Consistently reinforce training materials. While you don’t want to throw too much information at employees all at once, you also don’t want to allow them to forget training materials quickly. Consistent reinforcement will help keep the steady need for security practices in the front of their minds. Consider sending out email reminders or updates regularly or having brief cybersecurity meetings as part of the monthly agenda. You don’t want to force it down their throats, but you need to make sure it’s always on their minds. You can think of this as micro-training sessions that help hammer the messaging home.
- Leadership needs to be involved. Executives, managers, and other leaders should be a part of all training. This will help employees see an all-hands-on-deck approach to cybersecurity and that no one is too important for the training. In addition to assisting employees to see this importance, it truly is critical for leadership to be involved with the process. They need just as much knowledge and training as does any other member of the organization.
- Encourage people to report mistakes. Many security issues result from someone on the team making a mistake. This could be clicking on a suspect link in an email or falling for some sort of scam or phishing attempt in the workplace. Everyone needs to understand that these mistakes happen and that it’s important to report them as soon as they happen to take quick action and possibly avoid further issues relating to the mistake. Employees should be encouraged and supported for admitting these mistakes rather than their being ridiculed or punished. It can happen to anyone, and the stigma surrounding lax security behavior can do more harm than good.
Effective Training Evolves and Adapts
New cyber threats are constantly appearing, requiring effective training strategies to evolve and adapt right beside them. Training is essential, but so is the realization that tactics and best practices are likely to change over time. An effective strategy will keep this in mind and remain fluid in messaging when new threats and issues pop up. Regardless of the specific threat at hand, the tips and suggestions mentioned here will help you achieve better engagement and retention for a lasting approach to your cybersecurity training needs.
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