Group of employees discussing work

Why Use Employee Training Programs To Raise Employee Security Awareness

Under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, hacking and cybersecurity incidents have been rising dramatically. Security experts McAfee reported that they were blocking an average of 375 new threats per minute in July, while all kinds of phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks have boomed.

Hackers are quick to exploit stress and anxiety provoked by the pandemic, but the stratospheric rise in remote work also plays a role. Employees are acknowledged as the biggest vulnerability in an enterprise, but when working remotely the threat increases even further.  52% of executives agree that employees are their primary security threat, and 20% of companies reported a security breach due to remote workers since the start of the pandemic.

Few employees deliberately set out to damage company security. Carelessness and ignorance are the real culprits, and hackers know that humans are easier to exploit than software flaws. Remote workers have no one around to remind them about security policies or to spot when they compromise the system, and are less likely to bother double-checking about the safety of a new app when it means waiting for a reply to an email instead of shouting across the room.

It’s crucial to protect your enterprise from hacks and data breaches, especially since your security teams are probably also operating remotely and can’t respond as quickly as usual to mitigate a threat.

As well as using firewalls, keeping cybersecurity software up to date, and running regular scans, you need to build employee security training into your policies. Employee training programs are your best tactic for educating employees to recognize attempted hacks, maintain adequate security measures, and avoid accidentally compromising your cyber defenses.

Reliable security has to be a habit

You can’t rely on your security practices until they’ve become a habit with your employees. You need them to reach the point where they don’t even have to think about using a VPN or checking the settings for shared documents, because it will be automatic.

There’s no way to achieve that with just one or two webinars. Plus, research has shown that people forget up to 75% of new material as quickly as the next day. Ongoing employee training that repeats the same material multiple times in different ways is the only way to ensure that your employees internalize and apply the security skills they need.

Effective security skills need practice

Hacking attempts can come in a number of different guises, and it’s not always easy to spot them. Phishing attacks, in particular, are incredibly sophisticated today, so you can’t assume that the average employee will recognize and respond correctly to an advanced spear-phishing attempt.

Employee training programs that incorporate active learning enable employees to practice detecting and dealing with different kinds of cyber attacks, like phishing, malware, social engineering, and ransomware attacks. Active learning involves the student in the process, making it far more engaging and effective than passive learning, where you instruct employees what to do and expect them to understand and apply it.

True protection stems from a secure culture

On the simplest level, running employee training programs for cybersecurity helps make it clear that your company takes the issue seriously. Tellingly, 18% of respondents to a recent survey admitted that cybersecurity is not a priority for their employees.

But it goes further than that. You need all your employees to feel a sense of shared responsibility for your enterprise’s success in general and security profile in particular. The last thing you want is an employee who thinks they aren’t important, so it won’t matter if they send work documents on an unsecured personal laptop. Employee training programs that communicate corporate vision help employees to view themselves as playing a crucial role in the business as a whole.

You also need to set a corporate culture that is supportive and non-retributional. If an employee does slip up and cause a security breach in some way, you need them to report it immediately so you can contain the damage as much as possible. If your company shames or punishes employees for their mistakes, it’s a lot more likely that someone will cover up the incident until it’s too catastrophic to hide any more.

It’s never safe to relax your guard

Hackers are very patient. They’re willing to wait as long as it takes for you and your employees to get complacent and drop your vigilance around security practices. Regular training programs remind employees to pay attention and stay alert, while gamified training encourages employees to take pride in their ability to spot and prevent attacks.

This is especially important in a remote work setting that lacks reminders like signs or the presence of cybersecurity personnel.

Employee training is your best cyber defense

With hacking attempts on the rise and employees working from home, it’s more important than ever to step up your employee training programs for cybersecurity. By establishing a culture of security, giving employees plenty of opportunities to practice their skills and turn them into a habit, and ensuring that everyone remains alert, employee training programs help your enterprise to raise its security profile and prevent serious data breaches.


Staff Writer at CPO Magazine