Employee-first Cyber Security Training to Protect Against Cyber Attacks

Employee-first Cyber Security Training to Protect Against Cyber Attacks
Why aren’t we doing a better job of cyber security training for humans? If 82% of cyber security attacks [1] are human-caused, surely the biggest security focus should be on “fixing” humans — so why isn’t it? The prevailing “wisdom” seems to be “buy more tools” (that nobody will use) or “write a process document” (that nobody will read): why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Maybe because “old fashioned” and traditional security training for those pesky humans is boring or “somebody else’s job”. Employees — that overwhelmingly 82% root cause — yawn as they say that cyber security training is, at best, some abstract box-ticking exercise that doesn’t relate to their jobs to be done. Besides, it only happens once a year so let’s get it over with box ticking and amnesia. Employees ignore and are frustrated with cyber security training I wish I was overly cynical in this introduction (30 years in IT will do that to a person!), but I’m not. I’m being realistic, and I also have hope. Can you feel that? The winds of change are coming and they are sweeping their way into employee email, Slack channels and everywhere else that employee’s do their daily grind. This wind of change brings a new kind of cyber security training that is embedded in employees’ daily tools and processes because we should recognize that, if employees are the 82% cause of breaches, then they are 82% of the answer, as well. Modern training isn’t once a year, it happens continuously, in snackable bites. Best of all, it works. To understand how we got to this modern state of cyber security training, we need to understand where we — and I mean, we — started, why we needed change, and you’ll see how the answer emerges from the fog as we collectively sigh, “Oh, yeah! It’s kinda obvious!” Here’s the map. Grab a brew. Let’s begin.

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Seven reasons why cyber security training is vital in today’s digital landscape.  

We’ve all experienced that cyber security training. You know, the kind that happens once a year. It’s treated with disdain by employees. I’ve felt that disdain, “What is this crap getting in the way of my job?! Why am I doing the security team’s job?” It feels like punishment: taking time away from their real job, using content and systems that are disconnected from their daily tools and processes. “Do the security team not know I have a job to do?!” we exclaim. At the same time, ‌security challenges are more threatening than ever
  1. Ever-escalating cyber threats The bad actors want you to be bad at cyber security. As the number and sophistication of cyber threats grow, organizations need to educate employees about vulnerabilities and effective security practices.
  2. Human error as a major risk: 82% of breaches are caused by pesky humans. Regular cybersecurity training mitigates risks caused by human error, such as falling victim to phishing scams or mishandling sensitive data
  3. Regulatory compliance requirements The authorities are watching! Training ensures compliance with data protection and privacy regulations, avoiding penalties and reputational damage.
  4. Evolving remote work practices: Your workers are outside of the firewall! Training equips employees to identify and mitigate risks associated with remote work, protecting against cyber threats
  5. Protecting intellectual property and trade secrets Loose lips sink ships. Employee training helps safeguard valuable assets, reducing the risk of data leaks and intellectual property theft
  6. Safeguarding customer trust You have a responsibility to your customers, and don’t want to leak their PII. Prioritizing cybersecurity training demonstrates commitment to protecting customer data and fostering trust
  7. Continued technological advancements Cyber security training is what helps employees understand the risks associated with emerging technologies and implement appropriate security measures.  
So how can this gap between old cyber security training and new cyber attacks be bridge? Can employees enjoy cyber security training, actively engage in it, and become an important part of an enterprise’s defense?  

Employees as the first line of defense against cyber attacks  

Employees are the 82% cause of breaches and that’s exactly why the play a crucial role as the first line of defense against cyber-attacks.
We are the error-prone meaty cogs with our hands on the wheels, knobs and dials of systems, networks, and data. 
Regular cybersecurity training helps employees understand their responsibilities and instills a sense of ownership and accountability.    They should be the watchers on the wall, promptly identifying suspicious activities. Employees should strengthen the organization’s cybersecurity posture and reducing the risk of successful attacks.  

Employee engagement and continuous learning is critical for security.  

The evolving nature of cyber attacks creates the need for continuous learning. To keep employees prepared and informed, regular cybersecurity training is essential.    If you can keep employees up to date on the latest threats, vulnerabilities, and defense mechanisms, then you start fostering a security mindset built on continuous learning and adaptability.  

Why irregular “once a flood” cyber security training isn’t enough  

Tradition, “old school” and irregular cybersecurity training programs, where there’s a one-a-year burst of tick-box training, have significant limitations.   
  • The rapidly evolving cyber threat landscape requires employees to stay updated with the latest attack techniques and security measures. 
  • Infrequent training fails to provide timely and relevant information, leaving employees ill-prepared to recognize and respond to emerging threats.
  • By the time the next annual training session arrives, new vulnerabilities and attack vectors may have emerged, rendering the previous training outdated and ineffective.  

Regular cyber security training is the answer to strengthening security awareness and knowledge.  

Regular cybersecurity training has numerous benefits in strengthening security awareness and knowledge.   
  • It deepens employees’ understanding of best practices, policies, and procedures.   
  • Employees become familiar with common attack vectors like phishing and malware, enabling them to identify threats, mitigate risks, and protect sensitive data.   
  • This cultivates a security-conscious culture and empowers employees to actively safeguard the organization’s digital assets. 

The risk of knowledge decay without regular reinforcement.  

Without regular reinforcement, knowledge retention in cybersecurity training diminishes over time.    If employees receive training only once a year, they are likely to forget crucial information and become less proficient in implementing security practices.    Continuous reinforcement and repetition are vital for retaining knowledge and ensuring employees maintain a strong understanding of cybersecurity concepts.    Without regular training, employees may make mistakes, fall prey to social engineering tactics, or neglect security protocols, leading to increased vulnerability and potential security breaches.  

Complacency among employees due to rare training opportunities  

Rare training opportunities can foster complacency among employees.  Infrequent cybersecurity training may be perceived as a one-time obligation rather than an ongoing responsibility.    Employees may become less motivated to prioritize cybersecurity, assuming that their knowledge and skills from previous training sessions are sufficient.   This complacency creates a dangerous gap in security awareness, making employees more susceptible to social engineering attacks and less likely to implement necessary security measures.    Regular training instills a sense of urgency and ensures that cybersecurity remains a continuous priority for employees at all levels of the organization.  

Cyber security training challenges  

Traditional training methods can lack employee engagement with low motivation, sometimes staff think security is “Somebody Else’s Problem”.   Lengthy PowerPoint presentations or dry lectures result in low engagement and limited retention of information.    Employees may view training as a tedious obligation, leading to disinterest and decreased motivation. They may even see it as punitive and be actively disinterested and purposefully do the minimum just to pass.   To address this challenge, organizations need to explore innovative and interactive training approaches that capture employees’ attention, foster engagement, and make cybersecurity learning enjoyable.  

Difficulty in making training content relevant and relatable to daily work tasks  

A challenge in cybersecurity training is ensuring that the content is relevant and relatable to employees’ daily work tasks.    When training materials are disconnected from employees’ specific roles and responsibilities, they may struggle to see the practical application of the knowledge gained.    To overcome this, organizations should customize training content to align with different job functions and provide real-world examples and scenarios that employees can relate to.    Enhancing relevance and effectiveness strengthens employees’ understanding and application of cybersecurity practices.  

Time constraints and competing priorities for employees, resulting in reduced training participation  

Employees often face time constraints and competing priorities that hinder their full participation in cybersecurity training.    Busy work schedules and multiple responsibilities make it challenging to allocate dedicated time for training sessions. This can lead to reduced participation and fragmented understanding of cybersecurity practices.    To address this challenge, organizations should offer flexible training options, such as self-paced online modules or microlearning sessions. These options allow employees to engage with the training at their convenience without disrupting their workflow.    By accommodating time constraints, organizations ensure higher training participation rates and promote a culture of continuous learning.  

The “So what? Who cares?” impact of poor cyber security training on everyone  

When employees think security is “somebody else’s problem”, they will have a lassez-faire attitude to security and especially to training. Training might as well never happen. It’s value signalling at best. And this poor cybersecurity training leaves employees ill-equipped to recognize and respond to potential cyber threats effectively. Your employees are not the front line.. they’re not even in the fight. The walls are down. The tools are not enough. And nobody reads that security process policy. The organization is vulnerable to attacks, data breaches, and financial losses.
“82% of employees ticked the box that they’d took the cyber security training!” isn’t a defense, either.
Without the knowledge and skills to identify phishing attempts, suspicious links, or social engineering tactics, employees may unwittingly expose sensitive data or fall victim to malicious activities.    Let’s unblinkingly face the obvious: our poor cyber security training undermines our organization’s ability to protect its systems, networks, and valuable assets, making it an attractive target for cybercriminals.   So what? Who cares? Let’s find out who.

Reputational damage and loss of customer trust  

A security breach resulting from poor cybersecurity training can cause severe reputational damage to an organization. Companies have gone bust because of it, or received fines in the billions.   Customers, partners, and stakeholders expect their data to be safeguarded, and a breach will erode their trust in the business.    The negative publicity surrounding a data breach can tarnish the organization’s brand image, leading to customer churn and a loss of potential business opportunities. Rebuilding trust after a security incident can be a challenging and costly process, making it crucial for organizations to prioritize comprehensive cybersecurity training to avoid reputational harm.  

Legal and regulatory consequences, including fines and penalties  

Inadequate cybersecurity training can expose organizations to legal and regulatory consequences. Governments and regulatory bodies have implemented strict data protection and privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).    Non-compliance due to poor training practices can result in substantial fines, penalties, and legal liabilities. Organizations that fail to adequately train their employees on security practices and data protection measures may find themselves facing legal repercussions, financial penalties, and potential lawsuits, further impacting their bottom line and credibility.   By understanding the potential consequences of poor cybersecurity training, organizations can appreciate the urgency of investing in comprehensive and regular training programs. A strong training foundation equips employees with the necessary knowledge and skills to mitigate risks, protect data, and maintain compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, safeguarding the business’s reputation and financial well-being.  

Modern cyber security training solutions  

Modern cybersecurity training solutions employ innovative approaches to engage and motivate employees.    These approaches go beyond traditional methods and include interactive elements like:
  • Multimedia content,   
  • Simulations,   
  • Virtual labs,
  • Real-world scenarios, 
  • Artificial intelligence.
Perhaps the most important modern approach to cyber security training is to take the training to where ‌employees are: embedding training into the tools and processes they  use every day.

Embedding Cybersecurity training in Employee Daily Tools and Processes  

Embedding modern cybersecurity training into employee day-to-day processes and tools, such as Slack and Jira, can significantly enhance training effectiveness and integration. Here are a few strategies to achieve this:  
  • Integration with Communication Tools (e.g., Slack) Incorporate cybersecurity training materials and reminders directly into communication channels like Slack. Use dedicated channels or chatbots to deliver bite-sized training content, share security tips, and raise awareness about emerging threats. This ensures that employees receive training information in their everyday work environment and promotes continuous learning.   
  • Security Reminders and Notifications Integrate security reminders and notifications within project management tools like Jira. This can include automated reminders to update passwords, enable two-factor authentication, or review security policies before initiating critical actions. By incorporating security prompts directly into their workflow, employees are constantly reminded of cybersecurity best practices.   
  • Gamified Learning Modules Develop gamified learning modules within project management tools. For example, employees can earn points, badges, or rewards for completing security-related tasks, reporting potential vulnerabilities, or participating in knowledge-sharing activities. This gamified approach encourages employees to actively engage with cybersecurity training while working on projects in Jira.   
  • Incident Reporting and Response Enable easy incident reporting and response mechanisms within these tools. Integrate channels or forms where employees can quickly report security incidents or suspicious activities. This fosters a culture of proactive incident reporting and allows the security team to respond swiftly, reducing potential damage.   
  • Contextual Training Resources Provide access to contextual training resources within the tools. Embed links to training materials, videos, or relevant documentation directly within Slack channels or Jira tickets. Employees can easily access resources when they need them, ensuring that training is readily available and applicable to their day-to-day tasks.  
By integrating cybersecurity training into employees’ daily processes and tools like Slack and Jira, organizations can create a seamless training experience, increase awareness, and foster a security-conscious culture throughout the work environment.  

Gamification: Turning learning into an enjoyable experience  

Gamification is a popular approach in modern cybersecurity training. It incorporates game-like elements such as challenges, rewards, levels, and leaderboards.    By transforming learning into an enjoyable experience, gamified training motivates employees to engage with the content, complete tasks, and achieve milestones.    It taps into natural human tendencies for competition, achievement, and rewards, making the training process more enjoyable and effective.   Benefits of gamified training: increased retention, participation, and healthy competition   Gamified cybersecurity training offers several benefits.   
  • Firstly, it enhances knowledge retention by immersing employees in an interactive and memorable learning environment. Immediate feedback, reinforcement, and practice opportunities help employees retain information better.   
  • Secondly, gamification encourages active participation, motivating employees to invest time and effort in the training process.   
  • Finally, it fosters healthy competition, driving employees to excel and continuously improve their cybersecurity skills.  

Examples of gamified training tools and platforms  

The market provides various gamified training tools and platforms to enhance cybersecurity training.   
  • Some platforms use simulated cyber attack scenarios where employees detect and respond to threats, earning points for correct actions.   
  • Others feature interactive quizzes, challenges, and puzzles to reinforce security concepts and test employees’ knowledge.   
  • Additionally, gamified training platforms often include leaderboards and badges to recognize and reward high-performing employees.   
These examples demonstrate the diverse range of gamified training solutions available, catering to different learning styles and organizational needs.  

Engaging Staff Regularly: Making Cybersecurity Training Interesting  

By embedding training in employee tools, it’s possible to engage them regularly. But to keep them engaged, it’s necessary to make cybersecurity training interesting and engaging, with interactive elements like quizzes, simulations, and challenges.   These activities allow employees to actively participate and apply their knowledge in practical contexts. Interactive elements provide immediate feedback, making the learning experience dynamic and enjoyable, increasing engagement and knowledge retention.  

Creating a rewards system for active participation and achievement  

Implementing a rewards system motivates employees to actively participate in cybersecurity training. By offering incentives such as badges, points, or tangible rewards, organizations create a sense of achievement and recognition.   This gamified approach encourages employees to complete modules, engage in learning activities, and strive for continuous improvement. It fosters a positive learning environment and increases motivation.  

Personalizing training content for individual roles and responsibilities  

Personalizing training content ensures relevance and engagement. By tailoring materials to align with individual employee roles, organizations make the content more relatable and applicable to daily tasks.   Employees are more engaged when they see the direct connection between training and their job responsibilities.   Personalization can be achieved through customized modules, real-life examples, and industry-specific case studies.  

Encouraging peer collaboration and knowledge sharing through team-based activities  

Promoting peer collaboration and knowledge sharing engages employees in cybersecurity training.   Team-based activities like group discussions, workshops, or collaborative projects allow employees to learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives.   Encouraging knowledge sharing fosters a culture of continuous learning and a supportive community that values cybersecurity. This approach enhances engagement and empowers employees to be proactive in protecting the organization.  

Conclusion: 5 signs your employees are securing the enterprise  

To summarize the key points of this article on how to bridge the gab between modern cyber-attacks and cyber security training:   
  1. Regular cybersecurity training is of paramount importance for enterprise businesses in today’s digital landscape.   
  2. Embedded cybersecurity training in employees’ daily tools and processes.  
  3. Evolving nature of cyber threats necessitates continuous learning to stay ahead of malicious actors.   
  4. Empower employees to recognize and respond effectively to emerging threats, minimizing the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches.   
  5. Motivate employees with new methods, because traditional training methods are no longer sufficient.  

More cyber security training resources 

If you want to know more about cyber security training, check out these links — or give us a nudge and ask us anything. Glad to help, hear what challenges you’re facing, and share the pain of cyber security training! It affects us all :/ Cyber security training by anzenna AI