Human error is one of the most overlooked threats to a business’s cybersecurity. Risks range from visiting websites infected with malware, to taking the bait delivered in phishing emails, to accidentally leaking sensitive data or credentials.
A data breach can cause debilitating downtime, damage to your company’s image, and lead to crippling financial losses. Read on to discover how human error can be prevented using employee security awareness training.
The importance of security awareness training
Firewalls, antivirus software and other technological solutions only go so far in protecting against cyber threats, and simple human error can bring these security measures crashing down. Training on cybersecurity is therefore vital for businesses of all sizes—including small-to-medium-sized enterprises. In fact, SMEs tend to be targeted often due to their less than robust cybersecurity measures, making security training for small businesses essential.
Cybercriminals are constantly evolving and honing their tactics, and even the sharpest employees can be caught out by the more sophisticated attacks—especially if they are not trained to recognize the warning signs. Therefore, not only should new recruits receive cybersecurity awareness training, but long-standing employees should be continuously kept up-to-date with the latest security measures and threats.
What topics should be included in security education and training?
The benefits of security awareness training make it well worth the investment. Not only can it help you avoid a costly data breach, but it can help your business remain compliant with cybersecurity regulations and instill faith in your company among your clients and workforce. There are several key areas in which IT security awareness training is essential. Let’s take a look at the most important security awareness training topics in more detail.
Web browsers and email are the two main ways users interact with the online world, and should therefore be the primary focus of cybersecurity awareness training for employees. Cybercriminals have long used email infiltration as an easy and inexpensive way of gaining access to sensitive data and business networks—as reported by Verizon, a staggering 94% of malware is delivered via email. Email security is a vast topic, so let’s break it down.
This type of social engineering attack sees criminals attempt to trick recipients into opening a malicious email attachment or link by posing as a trusted entity. Phishing can take many forms, from spam emails sent out en masse in an attempt to spread malware through malicious links, to highly convincing attacks that see the criminal pose as a senior executive of an organization in order to convince employees to send them sensitive data or money.
By training your employees to recognize common phishing techniques and warning signs, you can prevent them from being caught out and putting your business at risk. Training can even encourage employees to flag suspicious emails before other users fall into the trap, thus acting as an early warning sign for the entire organization. Read more about phishing here.
Email security threats can also arise internally from mistakes made by authorized users. Employees might share sensitive documents with links outside your trusted network or with a misspelled email address, reuse the same password on multiple accounts, or forget to log out of their email account.
Basic security awareness and training can effectively prevent each of these scenarios. When sharing documents, it is advisable to use encryption or password protection in case your email falls into the wrong hands. If you’re sharing from a cloud service such as Google Cloud, the sharing settings can be updated to prevent unauthorized access.
Weak, common, and reused passwords can all be easily compromised by hackers. As well as requiring employees to use secure passwords that contain a random mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and characters, you should prioritize Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). By demanding secondary confirmation that the user is authorized, MFA acts as a barrier in case your password is bypassed. These rules apply to all accounts, not just email.
These days, it’s practically impossible to operate a business without the internet. While it is an invaluable tool for communication, research and collaboration, the internet can also be a gateway for security threats.
Cybercriminals use techniques such as URL phishing, where victims are tricked into entering their password or identity information into a compromised or malware-harboring website posing as a legitimate entity. Sites, where users can download movies and music illegally, are also often home to malicious links.
By training employees on browser security, such as how to recognize illegitimate URLs, how to watch out for URL redirects, how to keep their browsers up-to-date, and which sites are unacceptable to visit, you can avoid falling into this trap.
In the current landscape of remote work and the Internet of Things (IoT), employees are increasingly accessing sensitive business data while logged into public Wi-Fi networks in cafes and libraries, making security awareness training in 2020 more important than ever. Using public Wi-Fi is dangerous because your information may not be encrypted, and could therefore be easily accessible to cybercriminals. Some open Wi-Fi may even have been set up to pass as a legitimate network in the hope of tricking users into connecting to it.
Wireless networks are often the target of attackers, who seek out weaknesses in the system. Employees should be trained on the importance of VPNs, and how to secure their accounts and devices. They should also understand which business data is, and isn’t, acceptable to access over public Wi-Fi.
When you’re preoccupied by the dizzying world of online threats, it’s easy to forget about the more obvious physical risks that abound in an office or public working environment. Here are some things to watch out for to promote workplace security awareness:
Beware of prying eyes: Passersby, visitors, or even new hires may steal credentials by watching employees typing in passwords.
Keep your documents safe: Employees should avoid leaving sensitive information such as passwords on their desks, on flash drives, or written down/printed on paper.
Secure your office: Never leave the office unlocked unless there are security personnel to guard your documents and computers.
Log out: Employees should be trained to lock or log out of their work PCs when they are not at their desks.
Failure to follow any one of these simple security rules could result in a devastating cybersecurity breach that could prove almost impossible to track.
The importance of staying up-to-date with training
As we have already touched upon, implementing one-time training is not enough to keep your business secure. It is essential to keep your training materials relevant and up-to-date, especially considering the global shift to working from home, which has brought with it a range of new security concerns.
It is also advisable to test your employees regularly to ensure that they are abiding by the advice laid out in training. This can be done through procedures such as sending a fake spam email to see which users click the included links. Actions like this will expose weaknesses in your teams and allow you to implement training refreshers when necessary.
To keep your employees engaged during small business cybersecurity training, you should avoid generic online training modules. Instead, try to personalize your security training, make it relevant to your industry, and try flipping the script by putting your employees in the shoes of the hacker—they will be far more likely to remember what they have learnt if it is interactive. Encouraging a culture of reporting dangers such as phishing attempts is also important, rather than punishing or humiliating employees who slip up.
Need help with your business’s cybersecurity training?
If you’re looking to strengthen your business’s cybersecurity, Jasco Technology is here to help. We offer dedicated IT services for your entire business, including comprehensive employee cybersecurity awareness training and cybersecurity plans.