- CISO Guides
- 13 min read
From C-suite executives to frontline staff, every individual plays a crucial part in defending against cyber threats and must be trained to be aware of cyber threats and risks.
In this article, we will explore strategies and methodologies to equip employees with the knowledge, behaviour, and cultural understanding needed to protect against cyber threats. Our methodology for raising cyber security awareness allows organisations to drop into any stage of our four step process in order to progress and improve.
Our four step process: raise awareness, develop knowledge, change behaviours and developing cultural security.
1. Tailored cyber security materials for effective awareness
The foundation of cyber security awareness training lies in creating engaging and targeted materials. You’ve heard it many times already but here we go again: one size does not fit all; different job roles face distinct cyber risks and generations of employees all learn differently. By tailoring training materials to specific employee roles and departments, CISOs, DPOs and security leaders can effectively raise awareness and relevance by meeting the minimum requirements for each individual.
The Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) suggests that individuals are motivated to protect themselves when they perceive the severity of a threat and their ability to respond effectively. Tailored cyber security materials can enhance perceived threat severity and empower employees to respond appropriately. By positioning the training as personal and individual development-based, you subconsciously encourage more engagement from your employees.
According to the WEF Global Risks Report 2022, 95% of cyber security issues can be traced back to human error. No matter how much this risk/statistic bores you, it still holds weight and truth. You cannot neglect your employees by diverting all your focus on hardware and software solutions; your employees will still be the ones using them and if they’re using your new tools with the same old unsafe behaviours, you have simply just widened the attack surface.
2. Developing knowledge with bespoke or off-the-shelf awareness training
Once tailored awareness materials are in place, organisations can choose between bespoke or off-the-shelf awareness training programs depending on their size and budget allocation. Bespoke training allows organisations to tailor content further, aligning it with their unique cyber security challenges and even the specific cyber threats different departments face within the organisation. On the other hand, off-the-shelf solutions offer convenience and speed of implementation for larger organisations but also accessible and easy-to-source regulatory materials for smaller and medium sized businesses.
Social Cognitive Theory emphasises that people learn through observation and modelling. Utilising real-world company and industry specific examples of cyber incidents in training can boost understanding and knowledge retention. Your employees will more retain information for longer if they can tie the learning to their own role and industry – bespoke training really allows this to bloom.
3. Change behaviour programs to reinforce learning and build towards long term goals
Raising awareness alone is not enough; organisations must foster a culture of cyber security through behaviour change programs to keep safe behaviours consistent and ensure lax behaviours do not filter their way back into the organisation. Regular assessments, gamification, competitive team activities and simulated exercises can reinforce learning and encourage secure behaviours.
The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) posits that behaviour change occurs through various stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Behaviour change programs cater to employees at different stages of this model, making them more effective. TSC has over 25 years of experience raising awareness, developing knowledge, and encouraging behaviour change in global organisations – so, if you’re looking for a tried and tested security culture change partner, we have the experience and resources to support you at any stage.
4. Developing long-term cultural security through board engagement and behaviour research
To sustain cyber security awareness, organisations must integrate it into their cultural fabric. This requires strong board engagement, where senior leaders actively support and prioritise cyber security initiatives this setting an example for their subordinates. Additionally, leveraging behaviour research (like TSC's SABR to understand employee attitudes and motivations can drive targeted interventions and create an ongoing self-reflective cyber security programme that has the potential to build and improve year on year.
The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) suggests that attitudes can be changed through central means. Board engagement serves as a central cue, signalling the importance of cyber security to the whole organisation as it is prioritised at the core of the company.
Q: Why is cyber security awareness training essential for organisations?
A: Cyber security awareness training is crucial because employees are often the weakest link in an organisation's security posture. Human errors, such as falling for phishing attacks or mishandling sensitive data, account for a significant portion of successful cyber breaches. By providing comprehensive training, organisations minimise these risks and create a proactive security culture of cyber aware employees.
Q: What are the advantages of tailoring cyber security materials for employees?
A: Tailored cyber security materials cater to the unique needs of different employee departments, roles, and languages, ensuring that the training is relevant, engaging and formulated for maximum knowledge retention. This approach enhances the employees' understanding of specific threats they may face in their day-to-day tasks, making them more likely to adopt secure behaviours.
Q: Should organisations opt for bespoke or off-the-shelf awareness training programs?
A: The choice between bespoke and off-the-shelf training programs depends on an organisation's size, resources, and requirements. Bespoke training offers the advantage of customisation, allowing organisations to align content with their specific security challenges. Bespoke training is also perfect for larger organisations that need materials to be aligned with their branding and tone of voice, whilst also offering availability in over 15 languages. On the other hand, off-the-shelf solutions provide a quick and cost-effective option for those seeking ready-made training materials. Off the shelf materials are great for small and medium sized businesses working on a modest budget but in need of regulatory/compliance friendly material such as GDPR, password management and ransomware.
Q: How can behavioural science theories improve cyber security training effectiveness?
A: Behavioural science theories provide valuable insights into human behaviour and learning processes. This is why we leverage behavioural science theories like COM-B in our analysis and behavioural science surveys. They are tried and clinically tested models that have been serving our clients for over 20 years.
Q: Can you provide an example of a cyber security incident that underscores the need for training?
A: In 2021, the SolarWinds supply chain attack exposed vulnerabilities in many organisations worldwide. This attack originated from a successful phishing campaign, where an employee unknowingly downloaded malware via an infected phishing email. Effective cyber security training, with examples highlighting the consequences of breaches and simulated scenarios, could have raised awareness about the dangers of suspicious emails and prevented the employee falling for the phishing email.
Q: How can organisations develop a long-term security culture?
A: Building a long-term security culture requires commitment at all levels of an organisation, starting with top-level management. Board engagement is essential in demonstrating the significance of cyber security to the entire organisation and placing it on a pedestal that employees can look up to and aim towards. Conducting consistent behaviour research allows organisations to understand employee attitudes, behaviours, and motivations, helping to tailor training programs and interventions to address specific risks and gaps in behaviour/culture.
Training employees for cyber security awareness is a multi-faceted endeavour that requires tailoring materials, utilising behavioural science theories, referencing relevant cyber incident examples, and engaging in behaviour research for a contemplative programme.
By integrating these strategies and working with an experience cyber security support partner, organisations can not only empower their workforce to be the first line of defence against cyber threats but also find role models and champions in the C-suite offices.
As the cyber landscape continues to evolve, ongoing training and cultural reinforcement will be indispensable in ensuring a secure digital future. Bespoke or off the shelf? Find yourself a cyber security partner that can do both!
If you would like information about how The Security Company can help you to formulate a cyber security training and awareness program for your organisation and how we help support security leaders in setting up a fresh cyber security awareness framework ... please contact our Head of Business Development and Sales, Jenny Mandley.
The Security Company's vast library of customised and non-customised products and services are tailored for small, medium and large organisations and are available in a variety of languages. We also offer bespoke solutions for organisations that desire training and awareness materials built from the ground up.
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