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The 3 Golden Rules of Security Awareness Training

Parker Byrd

Many people think of security awareness as avoiding a few phishing emails in your inbox. The truth is that security awareness is so much more than that. 

The 21st century has brought so much technology with it. It also means your team must be aware of all the possible threats around them. So, how do you do this?

It’s a little more in-depth than buying an off-the-shelf cyber security course. Security awareness training is trickier than you expect. It is tailored to the most critical and most vulnerable part of your business – your people. 

We are all human and can be caught in cyber threats daily. Security awareness training helps your employees reinforce security best practices. A well-designed security awareness training program changes their behavior and attitude toward cyber threats.

What is Security Awareness Training?

Security awareness training shows people how to keep systems, data and information protected. Security awareness helps mitigate employee risk. People learn their definitive role in helping defend themselves and the organization.

The goal of security awareness training is for employees to:

  • Become more aware of cyber threats 
  • Be alert about any exposed vulnerabilities
  • Take responsibility to protect your business

Why Does Some Security Awareness Training Fail?

You may be asking yourself: “Why does my organization still get cyber threats, even after I have trained my team?”

Promoting a culture of security awareness is vital. But remember, you are training people. People want to be motivated and engaged in their learning. 

Some security awareness training fails because: 

  • The content isn’t relatable 
  • The training is not engaging
  • There is too much technical jargon
  • There is no motivation to complete the training
  • The assessment is not stimulating 
  • There is no reward 

This feedback allows us to design more relatable learning. We created the three golden rules of a Security Awareness Training Program.

Rule #1: Establish A Security Awareness Training Culture

Try to build security awareness training into your company culture. By teaching more staff, you boost morale and improve productivity.  Make sure your employees believe in the organization’s cyber security purpose.

Remember to involve everyone in the security awareness training. It affects all staff members, and so, the training should appeal to everyone. This means you can’t have a “one size fits all” approach. People come from different backgrounds, are of different ages, and have different cultures. Your training needs to cater to different paths so that it is relatable to everyone. 

The training always starts with your employees. They are the people exposed to possible cyber threats every day. They need to know how to identify and act when they find a threat. 

How to put the golden rule into practice:

  • Cater to varying levels of difficulty by creating diverse training paths.
  • Include various language options to cater to a wider audience. 
  • Measure performance and create continuous feedback sessions with staff. 
  • Recognize and reward staff who get good assessment grades. 
  • Keep security awareness an ongoing goal in your organization.

Rule #2: Train, Don't Trick Employees

Many organizations believe you should “trick” your employees to help them learn quicker. The theory is cyber attackers don’t hint to organizations before they attack. So, employees must learn the same way – a more “practical approach,” as it were. 

But here’s the kicker – your employees are human, and humans don’t like to feel humiliated. When you test people during their day when they are unaware, they may make mistakes and get penalized. Instead of learning from the error, your employee may feel ashamed of asking for help.

How to put the golden rule into practice:

  • Don’t make your team feel like they’re being misled. Instead, give employees a guiding hand and show them how to rectify any mistakes they make. 
  • Include practical examples with guided feedback (e.g., phishing testing and training). These tasks make employees more vigilant and help them learn from mistakes.  
  • Use memorable visuals in training. Allow staff to save images of cyber threat examples as references. Use screenshots and infographics to display information in a more engaging way. 
  • Be transparent about when the training will happen and how it will be implemented. 
  • Reward your staff if they do well in training by giving them a free lunch or a voucher. Any form of praise helps keep motivation and morale up. 

Rule #3: Keep Training Content Relevant 

Content relevancy is a buzz topic in many areas of training. It is vital in security awareness training because you are trying to change behavior. You want employees to be aware and involved in protecting your company’s data.

But training everyone the same way is a thing of the past. Humans have varied preferences, and they digest information in different ways. You must be mindful that employees have different backgrounds, preferences, and roles in your business. Base your training on an individual’s needs and their position within your organization. 

How to put the golden rule into practice:

  • Create different practical tasks for various roles in your company. 
  • Include varied media types. For example, use a webinar, infographics, video, and text as job aids and guides for employees. Remember that in-person training (virtually or in-office) is also an effective way to keep people interested. 
  • Schedule training at times that are suitable for employees. Try to schedule monthly follow-ups and coaching conversations with staff.
  • Deliver your training in different ways. Use an email, your intranet, and PDF guides to vary the style of training and learning. 
  • Plan for feedback. Give people the opportunity to survey the training and discuss areas for improvement.

The Three Golden Rules of Security Awareness Training: In Summary 

Employees are the backbone of your organization’s success. If your workforce is not trained to recognize and report cyber threats, your business’s people and its reputation can be in danger. 

Don’t let that happen. The ultimate goal is to have your workforce fully equipped to avoid cyber threats from any company computer. Use these three golden rules of security awareness to keep your staff educated, engaged, and empowered to protect your company every day.

Click here for more information on security awareness training.  

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