Cybersecurity Awareness: The Building Blocks of a Successful Program

What is your biggest security risk? (Hint: it’s also your greatest asset.)

People.

Security isn’t a technology problem and it’s not an IT issue. At the end of the day, your people are actually the biggest risk to the security of your organization. Technical systems are important, but if you don’t address the human element within your organization and take the necessary steps to promote cybersecurity awareness among your workforce, you’re in for one heck of a headache.

The goal of any cybersecurity awareness program is to ensure that all of the people within your organization are educated on the importance of protecting information assets, how to handle sensitive information, and the risks associated with mishandling or misusing information. The actions (or inaction) of your employees have the potential to cost you financially, reputationally, and legally. It’s important to give your employees perspective on how these risks can damage both your organization as well as their own roles.

Having a well-oiled cybersecurity awareness program is vital to protecting your business from a cybersecurity incident, including insider threats. A robust cybersecurity awareness program should include:

Buy-in and participation.

Senior management needs to be involved in any cybersecurity awareness program. Having support from your C-level team will ultimately allow you to secure a larger budget for the program as well as strengthen support from different departments. Cybersecurity awareness does not happen in a bubble.

In some cases, you may find it difficult to get senior leadership on board. They may be too focused on technology or simply not understand the importance cybersecurity has for multiple areas of the business. Try creating training and educational materials geared specifically to executives to help them understand the business case for a cybersecurity awareness program.

Measurement.

How will you know your awareness program is effective if you don’t measure it? Proving ROI is essential, especially when working on getting further buy-in from executive leadership. First, establish the baseline of your current efforts. What does your environment look like with no program, or with a weak one? Once you have this data, you can show how the new and improved program has affected operations.

When you show marked improvements in security, you can justify your awareness program to senior management and make the case for additional funding and support. Training metrics can help you prove the value of your program as well as ensuring that your training is completed on time.

Variety.

Diversifying your training materials helps you appeal to as many end users as possible. A successful cybersecurity awareness program will use a variety of training options, including computer training modules, videos, quizzes, phishing testing, posters, games, newsletters, and more. Training materials that encourage participation can be particularly effective.

Continuous training.

Security training isn’t a yearly activity. Your awareness program needs to be continuous if you want to ensure the security posture of your organization. It should be baked into every aspect of your culture, including new employee onboarding. A successful awareness program will keep employees constantly up to date on the latest cybersecurity best practices and internal security policies.

Advocates.

It takes a village. You need to include multiple departments in your awareness initiatives, such as HR, IT, information security, legal, marketing, and compliance. Representatives from these departments should act as awareness advocates to promote best practices and help to oversee the training program.

A documented plan.

If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. Create a detailed, documented plan on how the awareness program in your organization will be executed – and follow that plan!

Incentives.

Reward your employees for their participation in your cybersecurity awareness program. Create a system to provide incentives for employees to demonstrate good “cyber behavior.” For example, if someone reports a phishing email or a security incident, reward them with a gift card. Incentivizing your program helps to ensure that your workers will report problems as soon as they spot them and they’ll be more likely to promote the program among their fellow employees.

Cybersecurity awareness programs, when executed properly and modified as needed, can grow and scale as your organization does. Protecting your data requires you to provide engaging and relevant cybersecurity training for your employees on a regular schedule. At the end of the day, humans are creatures of habit, and the good habits you promote within your employees will be the driving force behind the security culture of your organization.

 

About The Author: Ben Jordan

Ben Jordan is a Security Specialist with GreyCastle Security. Ben joins GreyCastle with three years of experience working in information security for an industry leading financial organization. His experience includes training and awareness, incident response and data risk management. Ben is a graduate from the Utica College Cybersecurity Master’s program and received his undergraduate degree from Le Moyne College.