8 Steps to Implement a Cyber Security Awareness Training Program

Posted by Mark Jennings - August 02, 2019 - security

For modern businesses, cybersecurity is a serious issue. In the next two years alone, it’s expected that damage related to cybercrime will hit $6 trillion annually. It’s because of this jarring statistic that when protecting your organization’s digital assets, teaching your employees cybersecurity best practices should be at the top of your priority list.

However, establishing a cybersecurity training program can seem like quite an undertaking, and most employers don’t know where to begin. Luckily, there are steps to guide you in this effort. Below, we’ll touch on eight simple steps to help you implement a cybersecurity awareness training program at your company.

1. Get Buy-in From Company Leadership

Before you take steps to start a new training program, it’s important to get executive buy-in at the top of your organization. Taking this step first will help you eliminate any potential roadblocks down the road as company resources are used for this purpose.

Company leadership buy-in will also make it much easier to push for company adoption of new policies and procedures regarding cybersecurity and will validate your initiative for anyone who might think the effort is a waste of time.

2. Perform Risk Assessment Reports

The term “cybersecurity” is broad and tackling a training program designed around it can take you down many paths. To give your organization focus when starting a training program, it’s important to take stock of what immediate threats the company should mitigate.

Performing a risk assessment of your current systems, networks, and other digital assets will help to prioritize which areas pose the largest risk to business security. Knowing this information will ensure your training program is relevant and effective at getting employees to make wise decisions regarding both business and personal data security. One time automated “fake” phishing emails can be sent to your employees to establish a baseline of their cybersecurity savviness currently.

3. Provide Interactive Training Courses

Navigating cybersecurity best practices can be a confusing process for some. Here, it’s best to make your training courses as interactive as they can be. Hands-on training is a much more effective learning tool when compared to studying guide books or reading long manuals. By providing a platform, whether in-house or online, where employees can practice what they‘ve learned, you will help to expedite the learning process and make it easier for employees to retain what they’ve learned.

4. Schedule Regular Testing

Over time, it’s important to test your employees on what they have learned and confirm they are still following cybersecurity best practices. An effective way to do this is by using an automated testing platform that sends “fake” phishing emails and records whether users were fooled by the message and performed risky behavior. Users failing the tests can be automatically enrolled in additional training to reinforce their knowledge.

5. Compile Test Results and Improve

It is important to review the results of your test phishing campaigns and use them to improve your tactics. In some cases, you may find that specific sections of your training program weren’t clear enough for employees and confusion has set it. Reviewing test results thoroughly will not only will tell you which employees or departments need additional training, but will also help you adapt your training program so it’s more effective.

6. Implement and Enforce New Policies

While most employees immediately discern the importance of protecting company security, others may not. In this case, it’s important to implement new company policies regarding your organization’s cybersecurity expectations and enforce them accordingly. 

Some may view certain cybersecurity best practices in the organization as inconvenient or a wasted effort. However, enforcing these policies over time will ensure all employees recognize the seriousness of your training efforts.

It is important to be clear with your employees about the ramifications of repeated failures of the tests. One sloppy employee can cripple an organization should an actual attack strike their mailbox. It is up to each organization to determine what measures should be taken for repeat failures — and rewards for proper precaution!

7. Retrain Employees Regularly

Taking a “one and done” approach to cybersecurity training can be costly. Cybercrime is extremely dynamic, which means that effective countermeasures should be as well. As new cybersecurity information becomes available, and new policies need to be implemented to support it, it’s vital to retrain employees regularly.

Setting up quarterly or bi-annual cybersecurity training sessions can help to show your employees the importance of this initiative and keep what they’ve learned fresh in their minds.

8. Be Consistent

Above all things, the most important step to establishing an effective cybersecurity awareness training program is consistency. By following through with regular training and enforcing policies regularly, it will show the organization the importance of protecting the company‘s digital assets and make it easier for employees to adopt new policies that have been put in place.

Creating a cybersecurity awareness training program doesn’t have to be an impossible task. By following the simple steps, you can ensure you get the executive support you need while implementing an effective cybersecurity program designed to protect both the company and the employees who work for it.

about the author

Mark Jennings

Mark Jennings is SymQuest’s Area Vice President of IT Sales. Jennings works with SymQuest’s sales and service teams to educate customers on current best practices around data protection, disaster recovery, security, and overall technology planning.

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