An IBM study showed that 95% of all cybersecurity breaches resulted directly or indirectly from human error. With even the most stringent cybersecurity systems and protocols in place, a lack of employee cybersecurity awareness and cyber hygiene best practices can derail any organization’s plans. 

Also, over 75% of organizations, globally, fell victim to a phishing attack in 2020 alone. Each breach can cost companies upwards of $4.74 million; worse, the operational and reputational losses are not even a part of this estimate. Recovering from an attack can force systems into downtime for extended periods, crippling the organization in the process. 

It is not surprising that organizations are spending more now than ever before on cybersecurity awareness programs. But unless an organization trains its employees on why these practices are necessary, it will not be long before someone ‘forgets’ or ‘fails’ to vet an email before clicking on an unknown link. 

Any plan is only as strong as its weakest link. Notably, because the weakest link in cybersecurity comprises humans, training them can strengthen your organizational security. 

Here are a few practical tips on how to best impart this knowledge to your teams. 

How to provide employee cybersecurity awareness

DON’T FORGET THE LEADERSHIP

A recent Rapid7 experiment managed to fool three-quarters of the CEOs it targeted. Studies show that upper C-Suite executives and managers are more vulnerable to phishing attacks than lower-level employees are. Most spear phishing attacks target this stratum of management because of the high reward scenario. Since senior executives have a high level of access to systems, stealing their credentials can lead to better outcomes for hackers. 

Many employee cybersecurity awareness programs tend to overlook the leadership in the organization. But this might be a mistake. A robust program must involve everyone in the firm, from top to bottom. Moreover, having a cyber-aware leader is more likely to lead to a cyber-aware team. 

UNDERSTAND THE RISK TOLERANCES OF YOUR FIRM

Not every firm faces the same cyber threats. Assessing your risks first can help design a better cybersecurity plan that fits your risk scenario. You can gather the information for this plan by conducting a penetration test or a maturity assessment. Partnering with the right pen test firm can reveal your riskiest cyber threats, which can help in creating a plan to mitigate those threats. 

Additionally, this also allows you to allocate resources judiciously to defence mechanisms that work. 

FOCUS ON HIGH-RISK GROUPS

Although every employee is susceptible to cyberattacks, some departments may be more vulnerable because they have access to privileged data. For instance, the financial and HR teams need to be specially trained to ward off phishing attacks. The upper-level leadership also needs sensitizing in this regard. 

Hackers can profile high-risk groups based on their personalities and vulnerability levels. For example, older, non-tech-savvy employees can easily fall prey to phishing scams, compromising the entire organization. 

MAKE THE PROGRAM AS ENGAGING AS POSSIBLE 

Instead of approaching cybersecurity in a demure, informational way, try a storytelling-based approach. Corporate communications can be formal, boring and filled with jargon, making even the most diligent employees skeptical. So, it is important to communicate the criticality of this situation to the employees in ways they can relate to. Using appropriate storytelling techniques will make training more interesting and help employees remember the relevant facts. You may also consider looking at gamification as a way to engage employees; InfoSec does a great job of this with their “Choose Your Own Adventure – Cybersecurity Awareness” series.

IMPLEMENT OVERSIGHT AND CONDUCT REGULAR REVIEWS

Your work does not end once you have designed the program and communicated it to the employees. An oversight process will ensure proper accountability and practice. 

Regular cybersecurity reviews should be conducted to update the threat landscape and prepare the staff for emergencies. Cyber threats are evolving rapidly, and a lack of regular audits can expose your organization to several new threats. Moreover, these reviews can also be learning sessions for the staff, ensuring compliance throughout their tenure. 

A 2020 survey suggests that phishing is the most prevalent cyberthreat today. Phishing is getting more advanced with localization and geographical targeting. Unfortunately, hackers are also getting better at disguising these threats via advanced social engineering. Without the right employee cybersecurity awareness program in place, no organization can hope to tackle these threats. After all, good cyber health begins with a great leader and then permeates through the organizations.