When it comes to cybersecurity, continually updating your employees with the latest security awareness education is one of the most important things you can do. According to an article discussed in a recent LBMC Information Security podcast, human-error is cited as the most common reason for cyber intrusion and data compromise. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that the security awareness training market will grow from $1 billion in 2014 to $10 billion by 2027.

While security awareness education has become an industry standard for maintaining compliance, the purpose of implementing a strong, thorough security awareness program is not to simply satisfy compliance criteria. The best security system in the world is still vulnerable if employees don’t understand their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding sensitive data and protecting company resources. 

What does it take to create an effective security awareness education program?

Here’s a breakdown of a program’s key elements that answer these three questions:

  1. Who should be involved? 
  2. What should be covered? 
  3. How can you create a program that isn’t forgotten or ignored?

The Who: 3 Distinct Audiences of Security Awareness Education

Let’s face it: Not everyone takes cybersecurity as seriously as we do. This can make engaging people around the topic of security awareness difficult. To maximize the retention of security awareness education, it’s helpful to contextualize the content based on what’s most relevant to your employees. 

Here are three different audiences to consider with security awareness education:

  1. Management—There’s often a disconnect between the boardroom and the security team. In order to break down these silos, it’s important to connect your security awareness education to the larger business objectives that senior-level leaders and board directors care about. As you consider this audience, here are few tips for breaking down the silos between boards and cybersecurity teams
  2. Specialized Roles—Whether you’re a hospital or retail store, the unique roles within your organization are susceptible to attacks in different ways. The threats that impact the cashing and accounting team look different than threats that might impact the procurement team. Both teams should know how to protect against the threats that impact their specialized roles. 
  3. All Personnel—In today’s world, everyone within your organization needs to have a basic understanding of the possibility of a potential attack and their roles in it. One of the best ways to make sure company employees are less susceptible to costly errors is to institute company-wide security-awareness training initiatives that cover the most important security principles.

Now that we’ve identified who should be involved, what should you communicate as part of your security awareness education?

The What: 6 Critical Security Awareness Education Topics

In a couple related blog posts last year (you can find the links in the right-hand column), our managed security services team outlined six critical topics for educating your staff about the array of tactics cybercriminals utilize. These include: 

  1. Physical Security—Securing the building’s perimeters and internal areas containing sensitive information is an important first step.
  2. Password Security—Employees should have an understanding of why the enforced password requirements are important for protecting themselves, as the users, and the company.
  3. Phishing and Spear Phishing—Employees must be aware of phishing and the consequences associated with the latest phishing methods. 
  4. Malware—Avoiding Internet content laden with malware may seem intuitive to those in the information security field, but to the everyday user, avoiding this content is typically not at the top of their minds and is certainly not instinctual. 
  5. Wireless Security—Given the increase in wireless devices and communication, employees should be made aware of the importance of using only secure, approved wireless networks.
  6. Safe Internet Browsing—Employees with access to the Internet should be familiarized with the potential hazards associated with visiting unknown and/or unapproved websites. They should also understand that if a site is blocked, it is most likely blocked for a good reason.

If employees are aware of these terms, definitions, and the impacts they may have on a business, they will be better equipped at making security-conscious decisions while performing their daily tasks. If you want to dive deeper into each of these topics, you can read our posts Developing an Effective Security Awareness Program Part 1 and Developing an Effective Security Awareness Program Part 2.

The How: Security Awareness Education Case Studies

How can each of these ideas make a tangible difference for your business? Here are two Nashville-based companies who are excelling when it comes to security awareness education:

  1. Anderson Benson, an insurance and risk-management firm that handles cybersecurity cases, helps their clients understand the latest cyber and data breach mechanisms. They also take it a step further by repurposing their findings for their own internal audience to stay informed.
  2. Patterson Intellectual Law of Nashville has also excelled when it comes to educating employees on security awareness. For example, the firm recently created its own policy governing cybersecurity practices such as password management, secure document storage, network access, use of personal devices, cloud service vendors, and more.

To learn more about how these companies are strengthening their cybersecurity programs through employee education, click here.

Are You Ready to Enhance Your Security Awareness Education Program?

Whether you’re looking to strengthen your entire network security program or update your awareness education, our team at LBMC Information Security can help. Feel free to check out our library of resources and podcasts, which provide specific insights you can use to enhance every area of cybersecurity. Or, connect with our team to learn more about how we can help develop a security program plan or training framework.