What do most staff think when they hear the words “end-user security training” or “security awareness training“?
They think, “Oh no, is it really that time of the year again? What a waste of my time; it is so boring and doesn’t teach me anything that is useful to me. Security is the IT department’s problem/job, not mine!”
In many organisations security awareness training is dull, impersonal and does not use “real life or real world” stories to add colour and flavour and help explain the problem, the risks, and the impact of security breaches/incidents. In most cases the training is to read a policy document (Internet Usage Policy/Security Policy, etc.) or to watch a video or attend a webinar where they are preached to rather than being allowed to participate in an interactive or interesting session.
Staff need to understand that in today’s world, security is everyone’s job, because if your staff are not part of the solution, they are part (if not most*) of the problem!
[*] 95% of successful cyber attacks are the result of a phishing scam.
Source: (2017) Ironscales,.
Add to this that many staff treat end-point protection (anti-malware, personal firewall and related security tooling) as an “authentication” method; “if I can open this link/file in the email, go to this site, etc. and my system gets hacked/infected, it is not my fault, it is the security/IT departments fault!” This is captured very nicely in this cartoon.
Given the above perceptions of many staff/end-users, what can we do to try and reverse this situation, so that staff see security as part of their job/responsibility and become part of the extended security team?
What do you need to make end-user security training successful, rather than something that is hated/despised/loathed and avoided at all costs for as long as possible by most staff in almost every organisation?
Here are some top tips:
- Make it fun; use gamification, where they are engaged, entertained, involved and tested throughout each module.
- Keep it short and punchy; no longer than 20 minutes, backed up with bite-size (5 minute) modules to reinforce an individual topic/threat. Don’t try and do the whole organisation at the same time; do it in groups and stagger the roll-out to be more effective.
- If you can make it a competition; who can report the most spam/scams/phishing emails, etc. Give prizes, or at least recognition!
- Make is personal; teach them skills that they can use in everyday life, including at home.
- Phish your own staff (after training them, and before) so that you can gauge the effectiveness of the training, but do it wisely and sparingly as otherwise they will quickly become fatigued and disinterested.
- Don’t penalise those that fall for the phishing test emails; use this instead as a “teachable (not preachable) moment“, rather than shame or blame them, try to understand why they fell for it, and explain how they could have recognised it for what it was.
- Make sure you set-up an email address such as: “[email protected]” which can be used by employees when they suspect they have received a phishing email. Explain what steps they should take in order to report the email and give them with the necessary tools/guidance to report a suspected phishing email, such as a “report-phish” button in their email program.
- Training is not a one-time or once a year thing; good awareness training is part of the culture of an organisation and needs to be topped-up and refreshed all the time to stay effective. Make sure all staff, from the C-Suite down to the most junior staff in the organisation are included, not just techies.
- Ask for feedback, especially ask them about what they are worried about, e.g. Ransomware, Scams, Sextortion, Social Networks, Privacy, Passwords, GDPR, Data Breaches and how it impacts them personally and the company/organisation/industry, etc.
- You could always bring in a real-life “hacker” (an Ethical one, also known as a Penetration Tester or White Hat Hacker) and let them talk to your staff and answer their questions; they will have lots of real-world stories and good advice. T here are some that are good at talking to non-techies without resorting to acronyms and technical jargon. These rare individuals will use humour, analogies and stories to help illustrate and bring the subject to life; they will often be very passionate about security, and this will keep the audience engaged.
However, you will find that 10-20% of your staff will just not be trainable (from a security awareness perspective)and you need to identify them and work on ways to reduce the risk that they pose to your organisation.
As the old saying goes:
“The Bad Guys n Girls only have to get lucky once;
the Good Guys n Girls have to be lucky all the time“.
So, what is a good solution that isn’t going to break your budget, but still allow you to deliver most of the above as a managed service and tie in to your Active Directory do that you can assign training to groups or individuals and see the results (meta data) from the training and testing?
One vendor that I have found to be very effective in this space is Techguard Security, this is what they say about their offering:
“Empowering your workforce to recognize and respond to sophisticated threats is only a click away. TechGuard S.H.I.E.L.D is a cutting-edge and comprehensive training solution for businesses of all sizes.”
You can use the following link to find out more about Techguard and their offerings, including the end-user training and phishing testing offerings, and what’s more, if you decide you like what you see and sign-up with them, you will get 10% off the price!
To find out more and claim your 10% discount when you sign up, use this unique web link: https://www.techguard.com/omg-cyber-security/
If you don’t use that link to register your interest, you won’t get the discount when you sign up.
Don’t just take my word for the effectiveness of good Security Awareness training, here are some statistics:
- According to research by Ponemon, even the least effective training programmes have a 7-fold return on investment.
- Most cybersecurity training programmes result in a 37-fold return on investment.
Source: (2015) Maria Korolov,
If you don’t train your staff and carry out phishing tests, the Bad Guys n Girls will, and the results won’t be pretty…
I have been doing security for over 30 years and I often state “The day I stop learning will be the day they bury me“, in other-words, I’m still learning and will continue to do so until I die.