As more and more malicious hackers manage to breach organizations’ defenses, it is crucial to take the time, right now, and assess where your organization is vulnerable. While setting up automated systems to protect your business is a good idea, the truth is that many attacks target people rather than systems. These weak links are often your employees and coworkers. Understanding how to train employees in the field of cybersecurity is crucial for every organization.
There are a myriad of resources available to organizations that can help them protect their digital assets. Even with a small business budget, you can manage to find an IT service that provides top-notch security. This will, in turn, cause malicious hackers to resort to tactics such as phishing attacks and social engineering to reach their goals.
And that is why being educated about cybersecurity training and all that comes with it is crucial for ensuring your company is at the top of its game. Let us start by clearly defining what we mean by “training”:
Awareness, Training, Or Education?
Many people are not aware of the differences between those terms in the field of cybersecurity. The National Institute of Standards and Technology – NIST – defines those terms as follows:
- Awareness: The purpose of cybersecurity awareness training programs is to focus attention on security. Namely, it serves to help individuals recognize and respond to cybersecurity concerns accordingly.
- Training: The purpose of training is to produce relevant and needed security skill sets and competencies.
- Education: The purpose of education is to produce IT security specialists and professionals capable of innovation and proactive responses.It integrates all of the security skills and competencies of the various functional cybersecurity specialties into a standard body of knowledge.
NIST recognizes that awareness can be a good foundation for training and these programs can be complementary. Starting with an awareness program, moving to training, and finishing with education is an excellent way to produce specialists. However, the topic of this article is training – and that is what we will address – from its design to follow-through.
How To Create Effective Training Program
Target roles of cybersecurity training programs are in a myriad of different sectors. For example:
- Sales teams;
- Outreach teams;
- Support teams;
- General management;
- Developer teams;
- Communication services;
- Computer security;
- Human resources;
- Social media management teams;
- Marketing teams, and many more.
A training program needs to meet different requirements based on the target group. This can be a daunting task and, while it is an excellent approach for building security literacy in an organization, it doesn’t always work out as planned. Some of the reasons why it this approach can be ineffective may include:
- participants didn’t learn much from the program;
- participants didn’t change their behavior after the program; and
- participants’ learnings aren’t retained over time.
Every step of the training – from preparation and training itself, to activities held after the training – are equally vital for keeping your cybersecurity at an appropriate level. Let us go over those steps together:
This is the stage where the training is being designed and starting to take form. It is essential to keep in mind that this stage may take a lot of time to be developed appropriately. Nevertheless, it is of vital importance to prepare thoroughly, no matter how much time it takes. The tasks that take place in this stage are:
- Getting to know the people that will participate in the training and the company cultures influencing them: The first duty of the educators is to assess their potential trainees – and that includes personnel at the managerial level – to find out what are their motivations, the ways they learn, and what they require to retain new information.
- Creation of a roadmap, including the desired results: This is where the previously done assessment comes into play. The information gathered is now used to design the program and how its content should be presented for the desired learning results. Moreover, it is a good idea to identify the lousy cybersecurity habits of employees and include them in the roadmap.
- Prioritization: Once the educators are finished identifying bad cybersecurity habits and behaviors, it is time to determine which ones should be prioritized. The purpose of this step is to avoid information overload during the training.
- Deciding on the best training approach to use for target training participants: Cybersecurity training can encompass people from many different sectors and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The educators can use various methods – from traditional classroom-style to e-learning, or a combination. It all depends on the priorities – for instance, online learning is the best methodology for lessons that may need repetition. If the educators are familiar with adult learning methodologies, that could significantly contribute to additional optimization of the learning method(s).
After identifying which behaviors will be the focus of improvement and creating the roadmap, it is time to start the training. However, the work is not done.
- The trainer is a facilitator, not a lecturer: This means that the person leading the training sessions should encourage openness and interaction. This is because employees retain knowledge better if they contribute to the training as active participants.
- Ensure that the environment is open and friendly: This allows every participant to speak up or ask questions without feeling forced or put on the spot.
- Make the training interactive: Considering that we live in the digital age, simply having a PowerPoint presentation won’t cut it. For instance, educators can use various cybersecurity training videos, podcasts, infographics, or articles to make the training more active. Moreover, live demos, role-playing, and simulations may work for parts of the training.
- Ensure the knowledge will be retained: It is crucial to help the participants maintain the knowledge they have learned. Quizzes, exercises, and post-completion summaries can serve as promising tools for this cause.
As a side note, the educators may want to consider allowing or even encouraging informal chatting among the facilitator and the participants outside the training room. This can provide space for further discussion about the topics of the day’s training, or an opportunity for participants to ask additional questions.
At this point, the educators’ work is almost done. It is crucial to remember that these after-training activities should not be optional, as this stage is as important as the preparation stage. It provides an insight into the effectiveness of the training and opportunities to act upon the received feedback. Moreover, this stage should strive to produce continuous improvement of the program and company-wide promotion of good cybersecurity and privacy practices.
- Set up a portal within the intranet: For example, it could contain training materials for employees to revisit at their leisure. The educators can add more skill-building resources over time, such as simulations, to provide practice materials for employees.
- Creating an FAQ page: Some questions will be frequently asked. Creating an FAQ page is an excellent way to anticipate them, as not all questions receive answers during the training. Additionally, having an accessible FAQ page that addresses questions about cybersecurity can help trainees prepare for the training and keep answers to important topics and questions available long after the program has ended.
- Create visual cues: Having visual cues such as posters, emails, or newsletters around the workplace can help keep the knowledge fresh.
- Make reporting of cybersecurity and privacy incidents readily available to employees: After the training is done, a participant may receive, for instance, a suspicious email that may remind them of email phishing. After noticing it, they should be able to report immediately. Moreover, for emails that imposters may have sent, there should be a flagging and verification process in place so that employees may know and properly handle such an incident.
- Update training materials when necessary: This may be needed regularly, as new and appropriate case studies can come up at any given point in time, along with new threats and security concerns.
If you want to reduce cybersecurity risks and raise the knowledge level of your whole organization, The i4 Group has your back. From security awareness training for employees to education for those who want to become cybersecurity experts – the i4 Group can provide it all. Contact them today and see how your needs can be met.