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Cybersecurity Training That Will Turn Your People Into a Human Firewall

Regardless of the industry your business operates in, it’s safe to say your employees play a critical role in your day-to-day operations. They’re responsible for managing relationships with customers, executing complex projects, and envisioning the strategy that enables your business to grow for years to come.

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Employees are a vital source of strength, but from a cybersecurity perspective, they can often represent your single greatest vulnerability. Often, the root cause of a security breach is that an employee has been manipulated, tricked, or otherwise compromised into unwittingly allowing attackers access to your business’s internal networks. Many times, employees may not even realize their mistakes. Your business might only discover the issue once attackers start to cause significant disruption to your internal systems.  

Recent years have seen significant advancements in cybersecurity technology. More businesses than ever are embracing advanced practices such as threat intelligence and dark web scans that fortify their security posture. But as sophisticated as this technology is, without an educated workforce that clearly understands their cybersecurity obligations, businesses remain vulnerable to attacks.

Employees can either be your business’s single greatest point of weakness or your strongest line of defense. Security awareness training determines which. A well-trained employee acts as a lookout, identifying potential attacks and escalating them to the appropriate security team. On the other hand, an untrained employee can easily fall victim to a basic phishing scam that could end up costing your business millions of dollars.

In this article, we’ll explore the four key steps to turning your employees into a human firewall. We’ll also share the best practices you should keep in mind as you design and implement a training program.  

Why is Employee Cybersecurity Training Important?

While employees might have some level of cybersecurity awareness, a formal training program is a crucial step in teaching employees how to recognize and escalate common cybersecurity attacks.

You could have the best security software in the world, but if your employee clicks on a phishing email, your systems may still be breached. Simply training employees how to spot common attacks like phishing emails blocks the most frequently occurring forms of cyberattacks, significantly increasing the overall security posture of your business.

As many workplaces have transitioned to hybrid or remote approaches to work in the past couple of years, employee cybersecurity awareness training has never been more important. New forms of attacks have emerged, particularly social engineering attacks that exploit remote workers. Equipping employees with the knowledge to spot and report these attacks creates a safer working environment for everyone.

In many industries, including healthcare and financial services, regulatory bodies mandate strict compliance requirements that emphasize the importance of security awareness training. Failure to comply with these can result in significant financial penalties as well as reputational damage.

The risks associated with not providing comprehensive security awareness training to employees are simply too severe for businesses to ignore. But what exactly is involved in cybersecurity awareness training that will turn your people into a human firewall?

Four Steps to Turn Your Employees Into a Human Firewall

At Tech Heads, we employ a four-step approach to security awareness training that focuses on achieving a demonstrable improvement in security outcomes over both the short and long term. The four steps are:

  1. Benchmarking
  2. Training
  3. Simulated Phishing Attacks
  4. Measurement

Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in each stage of this training program.

1. Cybersecurity Benchmarking

Before starting the training program, it’s first important to benchmark your business’s current cybersecurity posture. Many cybersecurity training providers will run a simulated phishing attack that tracks how many employees fall prey to common phishing techniques.

On average, this number is around 30%, according to KnowBe4, a leading security awareness training and simulated phishing provider. By performing this benchmarking, you’ll be able to understand exactly where your company is most vulnerable. This data can also be used to prioritize training for high-risk employees and to quantify future improvements.

2. Virtual Employee Security Awareness Training

There are various ways to deliver employee cybersecurity training, but the optimal solution is to provide employees with a series of short modules that they can access anytime online. Tech Heads has partnered with KnowBe4 to create the THInc. Bootcamp™, an on-demand web-based training program that’s tailored to the needs of small and medium businesses.

The bootcamp features a series of short modules that vary in length from 5 minutes to 45 minutes, enabling employees to take each module at the best time for them. The training covers a range of important topics, including phishing, secure data management practices, device security, and password management.

The training curriculum should flow from the organization’s cybersecurity policies and should focus on giving employees the knowledge they need to effectively identify and escalate potential attacks.

3. Simulated Phishing Attack

Once employees have completed the training, it’s important to run another set of simulated attacks to qualify the success of the training. Many training providers, including Tech Heads and KnowBe4 offer thousands of phishing templates to choose from.

Upon completion of this second round of simulations, it’s relatively straightforward to determine whether the training has been successful or not. If your employees have taken the training on board, you should witness a significant decline in the percentage of employees that fall for these attacks. After the first three months of training, it’s common to see this number half, from around 30% of employees to just 15%.

It’s also possible to identify employees that still fall for the phishing attack despite the best efforts of the training program. With these insights, you can mandate remedial training for these employees and continue to test them on an ongoing basis.

4. Measuring Success

It’s important to measure the success of your employee awareness training for several reasons. These include:

  • Demonstrate the return on investment of security awareness training to senior management
  • Track improvements in cybersecurity awareness over time and optimize your approach
  • Benchmark your employee security awareness levels against industry standards
  • Identifying areas of focus for future training

After a year of security awareness training, the average KnowBe4 client sees a significant reduction in the percentage of employees who are prone to phishing attacks: from 30% before the training to just 2% after the training. An improvement like this dramatically reduces the likelihood that your business will suffer a security breach.

However, measuring the success of a cybersecurity training program shouldn’t be limited to just a top-line number. Explore metrics like completion rates for each module and use insights like these to continually optimize your training program over time.

Security Awareness Training: Best Practices

Regardless of the approach you choose to take in providing security awareness training to your employees, there are several best practices that you should keep in mind. These include:

  • Accessibility: use a training program that allows employees to access modules virtually. Ensure that the modules are short to keep engagement levels high and let employees take the training on their own schedule – just make sure there’s a deadline for completion.
  • Varied Format: include a variety of different types of content in your training program to keep your employees on their toes. Use a mixture of videos, quizzes, games, and written content to accommodate different learning styles.  
  • Include Real-Life Scenarios: prioritize real-life examples over cybersecurity theory. For example, instead of talking about the characteristics of a phishing email, show employees a series of real-life phishing emails and walk through how to determine whether an email is legitimate.
  • Continuously Update the Training: new cybersecurity threats are constantly emerging, and you should update your training plans to address these. Security awareness training isn’t a one-off event; instead, commit to running this training on a regular cadence.
  • Include Every Employee: every employee is at risk of cyberattack, from the CEO down to entry-level employees. Senior executives must lead by example, participating in training programs and holding others accountable. Include cybersecurity training in new hire onboarding.

Partner With Tech Heads to Turn Your People Into a Human Firewall

For the vast majority of businesses, working with an external cybersecurity training provider is the best approach to ensuring employees are aware of their obligations. These partners bring subject matter expertise, a systematic framework, and a proven approach to deliver security awareness training that truly makes your business more secure.

Tech Heads offers a comprehensive security awareness training program in partnership with KnowBe4, a leading provider of online cybersecurity training. Our expert consultants work closely with your team to develop engaging cybersecurity training campaigns customized to the needs of your business.

To learn more about how Tech Heads can help turn your people into a human firewall, set up a free consultation today