Security Awareness

Cybersecurity has become a major focus for business leaders today and rightly so with the number of major data breaches on the rise. Just look at the number of breaches in the first six months of 2018 from an infiltration of U.S. power companies by Russian hackers to 150 million users of Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app having their personal data stolen. The threat to today’s businesses is very real but employees can be a business’s best security resource if properly trained.

The report, Magic Quadrant for Security Awareness Computer-Based Training, by Garner, a leading computer trends analyst, reported, “People impact security outcomes much more than any technology, policy, or process. People play an undeniable role in an organization’s overall security and risk posture. This role is defined by both inherent strengths and weaknesses: People’s ability to learn and their capacity for error.”

The Human Factor
Human error leads to breaches all the time. Whether an unsuspecting employee in your business clicks on a phishing link that exposes your entire network to a malicious virus or someone misplaces a phone, tablet, or laptop with unsecured access to proprietary data, human error can lead to big security problems.

Study after study shows the largest threat to any business, by far, is the people who work there. The 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon shows malicious employees were responsible for 28 percent of attacks. In addition, the same report revealed human error was responsible for another 17 percent (or nearly one in five) breaches studied in the report.

Though these types of statistics show the desperate need for ongoing, repetitive, and engaging cybersecurity awareness training, many business leaders fail to see its importance and value.

Terrible Training Stats
Employees should be the first layer of security for every business but the fact of the matter is they have become the largest threat to business security today in major part due to a lack of proper cybersecurity awareness training. A report by SolarWinds MSP, Cybersecurity: Can Overconfidence Lead to an Extinction Event?, demonstrates that despite how important cybersecurity awareness training is, only 16 percent of respondents in the study considered it a priority.

An incredible 71 percent of companies studied in the SolarWinds investigation admitted to including such training only as part of the onboarding process or as a one-off annual event. Another 13 percent of organizations studied said that they offered no cybersecurity training to employees at all.

Why Training is Imperative
As mentioned earlier, breaches among businesses of all sizes are on the rise and the costs to remediate such attacks are also increasing. The FBI reported a 2,370 percent increase in exposed losses between January 2015 and December 2016. Additionally, a total of more than $5 billion was stolen from businesses in cyber theft between October 2013 and December 2016. That meant there was an average loss of $100,000 per incident and losses are projected to top $9 billion this year alone.

With this in mind, the primary goal of cyber security awareness training is to change the behavior of your employees so they are less susceptible to social engineering: Being manipulated, influenced, or deceived by someone to take action that isn’t in the best interest of your business. Some of the most common examples of social engineering attacks include phishing or spear-phishing by phone, email, postal service, or direct contact in order to trick people into doing something that will harm your company. You have the power to stop this by incorporating cybersecurity awareness training into your business before it’s too late.

When to Train?
The most-effective cybersecurity awareness training programs are ongoing. The first training for every employee should occur during the onboarding process. Thereafter, there should be frequent training opportunities and reminders, even if they are brief such as a once-a-month, computer-based training that only takes a few minutes.

Every employee should be offered a deeper training annually to update them on the latest threats to businesses in their industry and remind them of what they can do to help prevent attacks. There should also be additional trainings whenever a potential threat is identified or a cyber incident has occurred within the company so there are no repeat events.

What Should Be Covered?
One of the best ways companies can mitigate their cybersecurity risk is through proper training. The wrong way to approach training is as a once-a-year or semi-annual exercise where everyone is gathered for a training involving a long, boring PowerPoint presentation. This can feel more like a punishment for your busy employees rather than a valuable learning opportunity.

Not only should training be consistent with frequent, easy-to-follow training sessions, it should vary by topic and address the particular access to valuable data each employee has due to their individual role. Not everyone learns in the same way and not everyone needs to learn the same material.

Offer trainings aimed at specific roles taking into consideration how much access each has to valuable data and how they are most likely to be targeted by hackers. By offering interactive, role-based training in small, digestible portions with greater frequency, your employees will see it as valuable and easier to implement.

There should also be an emphasis on defeating social engineering attacks such as phishing emails that could lead to network-wide disaster. The aforementioned Verizon report determined that while 78 percent of people don’t click on a single phishing campaign all year, an average 4 percent of targets in any given phishing campaign will click it. Even more astonishing, it was found that the more phishing emails someone has clicked, the more likely they are to do so again.

Assess for Success
Cybersecurity training should also be assessed with frequent, short quizzes through training and reinforced through pen testing. This ensures employees absorb the valuable lessons being taught so they can act as the business’s first line of cyber defense.

How to Train
One of the most effective and more commonly used methods of cybersecurity awareness training being utilized by businesses today is interactive, computer-based training. It wields modern technology such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to engage your employees in learning about the invaluable role they play in protecting your business.

“Showing a trainee how to recognize that out of nearly 20 types of files an email attachment could come in, the only one that is absolutely safe to open is a file ending in .txt can be a security game changer,” according to the whitepaper How to Fortify Your Organization’s Last Layer of Security- Your Employees. “Providing short, three- or four-question quizzes at regular intervals during a training module helps employees review and reinforce their understanding of particular training elements and can increase their trust in the impact the course is having and motivate them to complete it, thanks to congratulatory messages after each quiz.”

At the end of the day, human beings can become your best means of defense only when the proper security awareness training is employed. It can show them how they may be susceptible to social engineering, which is considered to be the single greatest security risk in the years to come, and that they can defeat it. Such training also demonstrates that you are willing to invest in them as much as you are in the technology they utilize each and every day. With such insight and education, your employees will feel empowered to protect the business you all are working so hard for.

If you need assistance with developing and implementing an effective cybersecurity awareness training program, contact Oram today at (617) 933-5060.