September 20, 2023

Security Awareness Training: A Nice Option or Necessity

Security Awareness Training

Businesses have been long suffering from an increasing number of cyberattacks since the global pandemic, with the first half of 2023 showing a 27% increase over the same timeframe in 2022. That amounts to billions of threats coming at companies through seemingly innocuous places like emails, file downloads, or unsecured URLs, putting a massive strain on cybersecurity and IT needs. While it seems like those malicious files and links are the cause, it’s knowledge, or a lack of that’s the real culprit. If your team doesn’t know what to look for or how to treat a prospective threat, it can quickly become a full-scale attack on one of your business’s most precious resources: data.

Many companies are turning to cyber insurance to protect themselves, their clients, and their teams should they suffer a cyber-attack. Like any insurance, the providers want to know what your business is doing to prevent you from needing to draw on your insurance before they qualify you. They’re looking at factors like your next generation antivirus software, that you have multi-factor authentication for accessing company resources, off-site data backups, and security awareness training. So, an excellent place to start when discussing preventing attacks, is raising security awareness. Often done through training, it can be the first place to stop ransomware, phishing, email scams, and the like in their tracks.

Security Awareness Training Is a Thing?

Security Awareness Training is exactly what it sounds like: education and development programs designed to teach employees and users about various aspects of information security. Facilitators like KnowBe4, Microsoft, SANS Institute, or Terranova Security offer programs to help businesses become more vigilant and maintain cybersecurity at the end-user level (people accessing their emails and websites). By understanding what potential threats look like, how they can safeguard data, and the best practices for dealing with or, better yet, preventing attacks, companies can become digital Fort Knox.

Why Training Matters

When so many businesses outsource their IT functions through managed services providers and still have remote or hybrid employees working from home, it becomes apparent how easy it is for someone to make a mistake, and those errors can be expensive. In 2022, the average data breach would cost a company roughly $9.44 million in losses from factors like decreases in revenue, legal fees, auditing, closures, recovery, and other expenses. The majority of attacks originate from ransomware phishing scams, which come in at the end-user level, posing as a reliable source, then locking a company out of its data and demanding a ransom. By investing in Security Awareness Training, a company could save millions, maintain its credibility, protect itself legally, and keep data secure.

What Makes Solid Training?

When it comes to training, there are a variety of courses and approaches. Across all of them, you can find common elements that you should look out for from one program to the next.

Engagement is Key

The main goal when approaching end-user education is to keep it fun. KnowBe4 uses a variety of engagement tools, but having an app that lets learners take their education on the go is a big plus. Meanwhile, SANS Institute employs games, and Microsoft rewards experience points and badges to a similar effect. Thankfully, many of the major training facilitators seem to get it; if trainees tune out, you waste time and money, and the risks are still present. Enticing visuals, videos, games, and more boost retention, so make sure you consider how you deliver content before buying into a program.

Assessments Set the Pace

Before diving into training, most training services offer tests to gauge how aware your team is. Instead of spinning your wheels with a possibly overwhelming “catch-all” approach, assessments pinpoint where your biggest threats lie in terms of awareness. It will also provide a baseline from start to finish, so you know how much they’ve learned when you reassess them at the end of a course.

Phishing Season is Over

As probably the most significant threat to businesses, there’s a focus on identifying those pesky phishing emails. Training programs built around simulating phishing attacks allow you to create custom email campaigns intent on fooling your team to keep them on their toes after courses finish. As they say, “practice makes perfect.”

Extensive Libraries

Another perk to look at is the resources available. Many big players offer lifetime access to their content so your team can refresh whenever they need. They’re sometimes tier-based on a subscription model, so be aware of the package you’re investing in and what perks come with it.

Cost is a Factor

In many ways, you get what you pay for with training. Cofense offers a free tier, well-suited to small businesses who want to get the basics down. Others, like KnowBe4, have different paid tiers, with the more costly programs providing more options, testing, simulations, reporting, ongoing support, and more can definitely be worth it for some companies.

Knowing Is Half the Battle

After training with someone like KnowBe4, you arm your team with knowledge. They may not have the IT experience to out-hack a cyberattack but that’s not the point. What matters is that they can stop and ask themselves, “Hold on, is this link our HR head sent over to look at photos of their puppies really going to take me to look at their puppies?” and instead report that activity and await confirmation before the damage is done (cue Ron Howard voiceover here: “It wasn’t puppies.”)

Recent studies have found that new hires pose the greatest threat with their lack of security awareness, as they don’t know everyone yet, are eager to please, and are yet uncertain of who is sending what, leading to those dangerous clicks. At the same time, higher-risk, high-level employees are less likely to report when they encounter a threat, and dismissing it is just as worrying. From c-suite to cubicle, Security Awareness Training can help mitigate risk. Since it looks like it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” you will be attacked, leveraging available training may no longer be optional.

Empowering your team to become, as KnowBe4 calls it, “a human firewall” can be key for getting everyone working together and keeping your business safe. It can boost confidence in your security at all levels, from partners, board members, and insurance companies alike. Contact our cybersecurity experts on the Managed Services team for more information if you need assistance with a security awareness training program or have any questions about how working with KnowBe4 might benefit you and your company.

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