4 Key Components of an Effective Security Awareness Program

Security awareness training is no longer optional. All industries looking to thwart cyber crimes should implement a comprehensive security awareness program with these four key components.

Roughly ninety percent of  global organizations surveyed in a recent Proofpoint study claimed to have been targeted by malicious emails and spear phishing attacks in 2019; however, many companies still haven’t developed a mandatory security awareness program. Considering the widespread nature of social engineering attacks, it is in every organization’s best interest to develop a company-wide security awareness training program that reinforces training year-round.

Essential Components

Every organization is different, and every industry will have different needs. Despite this, all entities will benefit from incorporating the following components in their security awareness training program:

  1. Identifying and understanding risk— Which threats target your industry? Which employees are most at risk for experiencing an attack? Understanding how various attacks impact specific parts of your organization is fundamental to security awareness. Organizations should also gauge current cybersecurity knowledge, so they can measure progress going forward.
  2. Developing a culture of security awareness— One-off training seminars don’t stick. Frequency matters in the pursuit of true security awareness. Even five-minute trainings every month are better than quarterly 15-minute trainings. To be effective, security awareness should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind all the time, which is best achieved by running simulated phishing campaigns at least once a month, sending regular, monthly security awareness newsletters, and exposing users to new, relevant information and educational materials as often as possible. Investing the time to educate staff is worth the confidential information it will save in the long run.
  3. Engaging the end user— Security is everyone’s responsibility, which is why organizations should provide users the tools necessary to take part in thwarting cyber attacks. Implementing an email reporting tool, for instance, allows users to submit suspicious emails directly to the IT security team. Likewise, establishing a “see something, say something” culture will empower staff to protect their digital and physical environments in and out of the workplace.
  4. Measuring success and adapting to results— Organizations serious about deterring cyber threats should invest in a tool that allows them to run simulated phishing campaigns, gauge employee cybersecurity knowledge, log malware occurrences, and calculate the hours IT professionals spend addressing end-user issues. Collecting this important data will inform future trainings, help IT staff hone in on pressing threats, and provide reassurance that the process is working, in the form of a reduction in successful attacks and hours remediating them.

Comprehensive user security awareness can help protect your data, time, and money. For an example of a superior security awareness program, download our white paper: Unscammable: The Guide to Fostering a Culture of Security Awareness.