While technological advancements enable innovation and convenience, they also pave the way for new avenues of cyber threats and vulnerabilities. From multinational corporations to small businesses and individuals, the growing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks have underscored the need for a robust defense mechanism that extends beyond firewalls and antivirus software. This defense mechanism is none other than a well-informed and vigilant workforce – the human firewall.
Enter cyber security awareness training: a vital pillar of modern organizational security strategies that aims to empower employees with the knowledge and skills needed to recognize, prevent, and respond to cyber threats effectively. In an era where the line between personal and professional digital realms blurs, every individual with access to digital resources becomes a potential target or unwitting vector for cyberattacks. Thus, the need for comprehensive and continuous cyber security awareness training becomes not just a requirement, but an imperative.
In this article, we’ll dive into the importance of cyber security awareness training, exploring how it equips individuals with the tools to fortify their organization’s defenses and bolster their personal cyber hygiene. From phishing scams to malware infections, the threats are varied and ever-evolving, necessitating a proactive and well-informed approach to counter them effectively.
As the digital landscape continues to transform, the role of cyber security awareness training becomes increasingly central in safeguarding not only sensitive data and critical infrastructure but also the trust of customers, employees, and stakeholders.
12 Essential Security Awareness Training Topics
In excerpts from an article by usecure, they wrote, “With human error playing a key part in 95% of cybersecurity breaches, managing employee cyber risk is essential for your business to steer clear of a user-related data breach and to demonstrate regulatory compliance.
One core component of a strong human risk management (HRM) program is ongoing security awareness training that educates end-users on how to identify and combat modern threats, as well as best practices for staying security-savvy.
But deciding to launch this type of training comes with some common questions, not least of which is deciding on the security awareness training topics you should be including.
In this article, you’ll learn which topics should be included in your core security awareness training library, as well as how you can start educating your staff on these topics in a flash.
1. Phishing Attacks
One major factor is how sophisticated these types of attacks have become. Attackers are now using smarter techniques to trick employees into compromising sensitive data or downloading malicious attachments.
For example, business email compromise (BEC) is a common form of phishing that uses prior research on a specific individual — such as a company’s senior executive — in order to create an attack that can be incredibly difficult to distinguish from a real email.
Partner these more intelligent attacks with the common misconception that phishing is ‘easy to spot’, then there is no wonder why many businesses are forecast to suffer a phishing-related breach.
Employees need regular training on how the spot phishing attacks that use modern techniques, as well as how to report a phishing attack as soon as they believe they have been targeted.
2. Removable Media
Another security awareness topic that is used daily by companies is removable media. Removable media is a portable storage medium that allows users to copy data to one device and then remove it from one device to another and vice versa. USB devices containing malware can be left for end-users to find when they plug this into their device.
“Researchers dropped nearly 300 USB sticks on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. 98% of these drives were picked up! In addition, 45% of these drives were not only picked up, but individuals clicked on the files they found inside”*
As well as understanding the risks, your employees need to know how to use these devices safely and responsibly in your business. There are numerous reasons a company would decide to use removable media in their environment. However, with all technologies, there will always be potential risks. As well as the devices themselves, it is important your employees are protecting the data on these devices. Whether it’s personal or corporate, all data has some form of value.
A few common examples of removable media you and your employees might use in the workplace are:
This security awareness topic should be included in your training and cover examples of removable media, why it’s used in businesses, as well as how your employees can prevent risks such as lost or stolen removable devices, malware infections, and copyright infringement.
3. Passwords and Authentication
A very simple but often overlooked element that can help your company’s security is password security. Often, commonly used passwords will be guessed by malicious actors in the hope of gaining access to your accounts. Using simple passwords, or having recognizable password patterns for employees can make it simple for cyber-criminals to access a large range of accounts. Once this information is stolen, it can be made public or sold for profit on the deep web.
Implementing randomized passwords can make it much more difficult for malicious actors to gain access to a range of accounts. Other steps, such as two-factor authentication, provide extra layers of security that protect the integrity of the account.
4. Physical Security
If you’re one of those people who leave their passwords on sticky notes on their desk, you may want to throw them away. Though many attacks are likely to happen through digital mediums, keeping sensitive physical documents secured is vital to the integrity of your company’s security system.
Simple awareness of the risks of leaving documents, unattended computers, and passwords around the office space or home can reduce the security risk. By implementing a ‘clean-desk’ policy, the threat of unattended documents being stolen or copied can be significantly reduced.
5. Mobile Device Security
The changing landscape of IT technologies has improved the ability for flexible working environments, and, along with it, more sophisticated security attacks. With many people now having the option to work on the go using mobile devices, this increased connectivity has come with the risk of security breaches. For smaller companies, this can be an effective way of saving budget. However, user-device accountability is an increasingly relevant aspect of training, especially for traveling or remote workers. The advent of malicious mobile apps has increased the risk of mobile phones containing malware, which could potentially lead to a security breach.
Best practice online courses for mobile device workers can help educate employees to avoid risks, without high-cost security protocols. Mobile devices should always have sensitive information password-protected, encrypted, or with biometric authentication in the event of the device being lost or stolen. The safe use of personal devices is necessary training for any employees who work on their own devices.
The best community practice is to make sure workers should have to sign a mobile security policy.
6. Working Remote
In 2021, the obvious need for remote working, combined with the increasing uptake, led to many companies taking drastic steps towards full-time working-from-home policies. Remote working can be positive for companies and empowering for employees, promoting increased productivity and greater work-life balance. This trend does, however, pose an increased threat to security breaches when not safely educated on the risks of remote working. Personal devices that are used for work purposes should remain locked when unattended and have anti-virus software installed. If a company wants to offer this incentive, it should focus on educating remote employees on safe working practices.
It is likely that this trend will continue. Though we hope to see offices reopening and a return to normal working life, companies have increasingly hired remote workers, and those who have adapted to the WFH lifestyle may prefer to work this way. The need to train employees to understand and manage their own cybersecurity is apparent. As we’ve seen, there is an increasing threat landscape targeting these individuals.
7. Public Wi-Fi
Some employees who need to work remotely, traveling on trains, and working on the move may need extra training in understanding how to safely use public Wi-Fi services. Fake public Wi-Fi networks, often posing in coffee shops as free Wi-Fi, can leave end-users vulnerable to entering information into non-secure public servers.
Educating your users on the safe use of public Wi-Fi and the common signs to spot a potential scam will increase the company’s awareness and minimize risk.
8. Cloud Security
Cloud computing has revolutionized businesses and the way data is stored and accessed. These digital applications are transforming businesses. However, with large amounts of private data being stored remotely comes the risk of large-scale hacks. Many big companies are working on data protection, but by choosing the right cloud service provider, cloud storage can be a much safer and cost-effective way of storing your company’s data.
As with the other topics mentioned, insider hacking is much more of a threat than to large-scale cloud companies. Gartner predicts that by next year, 99% of all cloud security incidents will be the fault of the end-user. Therefore, cyber security awareness training can help guide employees through the secure use of cloud-based applications.
9. Social Media Use
We all share large parts of our lives on social media, from holidays to events and work. But oversharing can lead to sensitive information being available, making it easy for a malicious actor to pose as a trusted source (see: social engineering).
Educating employees on protecting the privacy settings of their social media accounts, and preventing the spread of public information about your company will reduce the risk of the potential leverage that hackers can gain from this access to your personal network.
10. Internet and Email Use
Some employees may have already been exposed to data breaches, by using simple or repeat emails for multiple accounts. One study found that 59% of end-users use the same password for every account. This means that if one account is compromised, a hacker can use this password on work and social media accounts to gain access to all of the user’s information on these accounts.
Often, websites offer free software infected with malware. Downloaded applications from trusted sources only is the best way to protect your computer from installing any malicious software. Educating employees on safe internet habits should be a key part of any IT induction. Though some may see this training as obvious, it is a key part of the safety of any security program.
Many large websites have had large data breaches in recent years. If your information has been entered into these sites, it could have been made public and exposed your private information.
11. Social engineering
Social engineering is a common technique malicious actors use to gain the trust of employees, offering valuable lures or using impersonation to gain access to valuable personal information. Employees need to be educated on security awareness topics that cover the most common social engineering techniques and the psychology of influence (for instance, scarcity, urgency, and reciprocity), in order to combat these threats.
For example, by posing as a viable client or offering incentives, private information can unwittingly be handed over to these malicious actors. Increasing employee awareness of the threat of these impersonations is critical in reducing the risk of social engineering.
12. Security at Home
Unfortunately, the threat of malicious actors does not stop when you leave the workplace. Many companies allow their employees to use their personal devices, which is a great cost-saving method and allows flexible working. However, there are risks associated with this. Unwittingly malware downloaded applications on personal devices can risk the integrity of the company’s network if, for example, log-in details are compromised.
Additionally, The growing network of digital resources available to workers and companies has increased connectivity and productivity. However, these applications also pose a risk to the user. A study by Propeller found that phishing campaigns that targeted Dropbox had a 13.6% click-through rate. Increasing employee knowledge, sharing encrypted files, and authenticating downloads will reduce the risk.
By promoting a culture of conversation and awareness in your business on a regular basis through end-user security awareness training, you can keep your employees up to date with the requirements to keep their personal and business information secure.”
Empowering Smarter Cyber Defenders
As small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) navigate the ever-evolving landscape of digital threats, the role of cyber security awareness training emerges as an essential tool in fortifying their defenses. In an era where human error plays a pivotal role in cyber breaches, educating employees about the nuances of cyber threats, prevention strategies, and safe digital practices becomes paramount.
SMBs must recognize that cyber security awareness training isn’t just a checklist item; it’s a proactive investment in building a resilient and vigilant workforce. The diverse range of training topics, from phishing and password security to remote work and cloud security, equips employees with the knowledge needed to identify, thwart, and report potential threats effectively.
In an interconnected world where personal devices often blend with professional use, the distinction between work and personal security blurs. By emphasizing security at home and promoting safe practices on public Wi-Fi networks, SMBs can foster a holistic approach to cyber defense that extends beyond the workplace.
As remote work and cloud adoption continue to rise, so do the potential entry points for cyberattacks. By integrating these crucial training topics into their security strategy, SMBs can better equip their employees to navigate the intricacies of remote work securely and harness the benefits of cloud computing without compromising data integrity.
Ultimately, the goal of cyber security awareness training is to cultivate a culture of heightened vigilance and proactive defense. SMBs that prioritize employee training demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding sensitive data, maintaining customer trust, and complying with regulations.
In a world where cyber threats are ever-present, empowering employees to become smarter cyber defenders isn’t just a choice – it’s a necessity. By fostering a workforce that recognizes the significance of their role in the broader security landscape, SMBs can significantly reduce the risk of breaches, strengthen their resilience, and establish a strong foundation for sustained growth and success.
At Adaptive Office Solutions, cybersecurity is our specialty. We keep cybercrimes at bay by using analysis, forensics, and reverse engineering to prevent malware attempts and patch vulnerability issues. By making an investment in multilayered cybersecurity, you can leverage our expertise to boost your defenses, mitigate risks, and protect your data with next-gen IT security solutions.
Every single device that connects to the internet poses a cyber security threat, including that innocent-looking smartwatch you’re wearing. Adaptive’s wide range of experience and certifications fills the gaps in your business’s IT infrastructure and dramatically increases the effectiveness of your cybersecurity posture.
Using our proactive cybersecurity management, cutting-edge network security tools, and comprehensive business IT solutions, you can lower your costs through systems that are running at their prime, creating greater efficiency and preventing data loss and costly downtime. With Adaptive Office Solutions by your side, we’ll help you navigate the complexities of cybersecurity so you can achieve business success without worrying about online threats.
To schedule a Cyber Security Risk Review, call the Adaptive Office Solutions’ hotline at 506-624-9480 or email us at email@example.com