Due to the ever evolving and more intricate nature of hacking, spamming and activity of cyber criminals, it is now vital that all companies, groups and organizations have an effective security awareness program and to make sure all employees, staff and workers know how to recognize email threats.

Threat actors are now creating very sophisticated tactics to download malware, ransomware, and obtain login credentials and email is the attack style of choice. Companies are being targeted and it will only be a matter of time before a malicious email is delivered to an worker’s inbox. It is therefore crucial that employees are trained how to identify email threats and told how they should respond when a suspicious email lands in their inbox.

If security awareness training is not made available for staff then there will be a huge hole in your security defenses. To assist yo in getting back on the right track, we have listed some vital elements of an effective security awareness strategy.

Vital Important Elements of an Strong Security Awareness Program

Have C-Suite Involved

One of the most vital starting points is to see to it that the C-Suite is on board. With board involvement you are likely to be able to dedicate larger budgets for your security training program and it should be simpler to get your plan adapted and followed by all departments in your organization.

In practice, getting the backing of executives to support a security awareness program can tricky. One of the most effective ways to increase the chance of success is to clearly explain the importance of developing a security culture and to back this up with the financial advantages that come from having a strong security awareness program. Provide data on the extent that businesses are being hit, the volume of phishing and malicious emails being shared, and the money that other businesses have had to cover to address email-based attacks.

The Ponemon Institute has completed several major surveys and provides annual reports on the expense of cyberattacks and data breaches and is a good source for facts and figures. Security awareness training companies are also good sources of figures. Current data indicates the benefit of the program and what you require to ensure it is a success.

Get Other Departments On Board

The IT department should not be the only one responsible for developing a strong security awareness training program. Other departments can supply help and may be able to offer additional materials. Try to get the marketing department to support this, human resources, the compliance department, privacy officers. Those outside of the security team may have some valuable input not only in terms of content but also how to provide the training to get the best results.

Create a Continuous Security Awareness Strategy

A one-time classroom-based training session conducted once annually may have once been enough, but due to the rapidly changing threat landscape and the volume of phishing emails now being sent, an annual training session is no longer adequate.

Training should be conducted an ongoing process provided during the year, with up to date information included on present and emerging threats. Each employee is different, and while classroom-based training sessions work for some, they do not work for all employees. Create a training program using a variety of training methods including annual classroom-based training sessions, constant computer-based training sessions, and use posters, games, newsletters, and email alerts to keep security issues to the fore of workers’ minds.

Provide Incentives and Gamification

Reward individuals who have finished training, alerted the group to a new phishing threat, or have scored well in security awareness training and tests. Try to establish competition between departments by publishing details of departments that have performed very well and have the highest percentage of employees who have finished training, have reported the most phishing threats, scored the highest in tests, or have correctly identified the most phishing emails in a round of phishing simulations.

Security awareness training should ideally be interesting. If the training is fun, employees are more likely to want to participate and retain knowledge. Use gamification methods and choose security awareness training providers that offer interesting and engaging content.

Test Knowledge with Phishing Email Simulations

You can conduct training, but unless you test your employees’ security awareness you will not know how effective your training program has been and if your staff have been paying attention.

Before you begin your training program it is important to have a baseline against which you can gauge success. This can be achieved using security questionnaires and completing phishing simulation exercises.

Running phishing simulation exercises using real world examples of phishing emails following training has been completed will highlight which employees are security titans and which need further training. A failed phishing simulation exercise can be transformed into a training opportunity.

Comparing the before and after results will let you see the advantages of your program and could be used to help get more funding.

Train your staff constantly and review their understanding and in a relatively short space of time you can create a highly effective human firewall that complements your technological cyber security security measures. If a malicious email breaks through your spam filter, you can be happy that your employees will have the skills to recognize the threat.