Why You Need Cyber Awareness Training

The vast majority of cyberattacks begin with targeting humans and their mistakes rather than your hardware, software, and other IT infrastructure. There have been several cases over the last couple of years where organizations fell victim to cyberattacks because of the carelessness of their employees. HackingTeam, a firm specializing in cooperating with government organizations and selling exploits, was hacked because it exposed its internal infrastructure and used weak credentials, allowing the hacker to break into their systems easily. Without proper cybersecurity training, even the most experienced security firms could be successfully targeted by skilled attackers. Proper cybersecurity education can, to a great extent, reduce your points of failure at the organizational level and help to deter attackers from breaking into your system.

There is a strong need to offer cybersecurity training to your employees, and the logic is simple here. If your employees are not educated about cybersecurity, they can't recognize a potential threat to your organization. If they cannot understand a threat, then it becomes unavoidable. In most cases, such attacks are successful because employees couldn't spot a threat, avoid, and report it for further investigation. Surveys have shown that the vast majority of breaches happened due to a lack of employee security training. This lack of security training is one of the most severe problems faced by organizations today. Despite that, in your average organization, most employees still do not know what an email phishing campaign is. Elaborate phishing scams, business email compromises, and credential stuffing attacks have caused losses of more than $5 billion to organizations over the last couple of years. You might argue that these organizations didn't have proper endpoint security, firewalls, or security software. Still, the real problem is that the people in an organization are far more likely to fall for phishing attacks because they are unaware of these kinds of attacks.

Humans aren't infallible; we make mistakes. It's hard for employees to distinguish between legitimate and fake email identities and domains. Phishing tactics rely mostly on the ignorance of an employee who might unknowingly click on links, which allow attackers to get access to sensitive internal information. But this risk can easily be mitigated if employees are given proper cybersecurity training and guidance. Through cybersecurity awareness training, employees can be made aware of potential security threats, educating them about the risks involved, and how to react when they face such threats. Training can greatly minimize the impact of these attacks by strengthening the most vulnerable part of your organization, the people, and successfully deter attackers from breaching your organization in this way.

What Should Cyber Awareness Training Cover?

Now that you know why you need to train your employees, it's essential to learn how to implement a cyber awareness training program in the right manner. We will do this by going through the topics that an effective training program should contain.

The Different Kinds Of Threats
For employees to be able to recognize threats to your organization, they first need to be trained to understand different forms of cyber threats and how to avoid and report them. They need to be taught that most of these attacks come in the form of spam, phishing, malware, ransomware, and unknown suspicious links hidden in phishing emails, documents, and harmful files.

Training videos can help your team understand the different forms of cyber threats that exist in a very intuitive and interactive manner. After training videos, your employees will be better equipped to distinguish between legitimate and spam emails. They should also be made aware that the email threats don't just come from unknown senders, but also from attackers on social media pretending to be your customers. A good idea is to provide your people with real-life examples of phishing techniques. This way, employees will know to spot fake phishing emails by analyzing the source of the email address, the information it contains, the files that may be attached, and the information it asks for.

Deceptive phishing emails can look very convincing, as attackers forge them with a great deal of effort to make them look real. Practical training focuses on the subtler parts of phishing scams and seeks to make your employees more aware of these subtle threat indicators. Some of these emails contain familiar links which when clicked, redirect to internal login panels that look identical to your internal login panels. This is where most employees get tricked into entering their login credentials, which then get reused by attackers, who can now breach your organization. Because attackers change their approach from time to time, it is important to continue training periodically. This will help them stay up to date with the latest ransomware, malware, and phishing techniques. Your training should help your employees learn to distinguish between social-engineered fake emails and legitimate ones by spotting the subtle differences.

Good Password Practices
Most employees need to log in and out of applications and devices regularly. This makes them more likely to use simple passwords that they can easily remember, which in turn makes the job easier for adversaries. Weak credentials expose you to a wide range of attacks that include dictionary brute-forcing and credential stuffing. In general, the shorter and simpler the password, the easier it is for an adversary to crack it. This is where practical security awareness training can help your employees understand the importance of using stronger passwords. It would be best if you told them how necessary credentials are to your organization's security and how they act as the first line of defense to keep sensitive information safe from hackers. It would help if you also enforced company policies to include numbers, letters, and special characters in passwords, along with a minimum password length.

Internet Security
Insecure email management and the browsing habits of your employees can expose your organization to various forms of attack that can result in financial losses, loss of sensitive data, and other serious damage. Effective training includes explaining the different email, internet, and social media policies and providing guidelines for your employees on how to use them safely. Create policies and guidelines that forbid employees to click on suspicious links and to ignore emails that get flagged as suspicious or spam by antivirus software. Enforce rules for internet browsing and social media activity. Explain to employees why this is necessary, and they will be less likely to question or circumvent these restrictions.

Data Protection
You should implement data protection policies for your employees and use your cybersecurity sessions to help them understand your organization's stance, as well as the regulatory and legal obligations of these policies. Use your regular training sessions to keep them updated about new policies that may come into force.

Spotting & Reporting Threats
Attacks might target just about anything, including your devices, software, emails, and the internal tools used by your employees. Teach your employees that suspicious social media messages can also contain potential threats to your organization, either through a hidden harmful link or a dangerous attachment containing a virus. To prevent attacks from social media, you need to raise cybersecurity awareness among your employees about the threats from these platforms. Make sure that you teach them to understand the implications of clicking on dangerous links and downloading harmful files. Help them spot the difference between false positive antivirus warnings and legitimate spam and virus flagging by antivirus filters, so they can effectively identify and report these instances to the right team. This will ensure that threats are properly investigated and mitigated before they cause harm.

Training Best Practices

The goal of cybersecurity training is to create a sense of shared responsibility among your employees so that they can amend their habits and adopt safe practices, keeping the company safe as a whole. To achieve this goal some best practices must be followed.

Train Your New Recruits
As part of the onboarding process, make it compulsory for new employees to take cybersecurity training from day one. Make sure it covers all the essential topics and helps them understand and follow your cybersecurity and data protection policies. If possible, try to include the rules and policies in your employee handbook. This ensures that your new recruits don't become an easy target for hackers and that they start caring about cybersecurity as part of their job responsibilities from their very first day.

Rinse and Repeat

Repetition is the key to developing any habit. For example, we are used to checking notifications on our mobile so frequently because we are so accustomed to doing it. Similarly, employees develop good habits by repeating them over and over again. Offer cybersecurity training periodically so that they can practice safe habits and make it an integral part of their day to day workflow. Have them take your training more often and on an ad-hoc basis so that you can incorporate new company policies as well as improved versions of attacks into your training program.

Contests & Challenges for Employees

Your employees are most vulnerable to attacks, but they can be converted from being vulnerable to your first line of defense. This is why it's important to make cybersecurity a core part of your company culture so that you collectively work together toward your company's safety. To achieve this level of coordination between your employees, you can incentivize and reward them for completing cybersecurity courses in the form of Capture the Flag (CTF) challenges, which help them understand threats. CTFs can also help with employee engagement so that the learning process doesn't become a drudge. CTFs encourage and motivate your people to actively take part in your training and show them how the practice helped your company tackle the attacks.

As you start identifying new threats, you should also issue company-wide announcements to keep employees aware and alert. Your business might be the next target of a highly-skilled group of cyber attackers, and the only way to mitigate such an attack is to train your employees effectively and regularly. If your business needs any help with cybersecurity training, get in touch with ITSEC, we have a wealth of experience training employees in a wide range of our customer’s organizations.