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  • 13 April 2022
  • 6 min read

The differences between free and paid cyber security awareness training

Would you implement free security software organisation wide? No? Then why would you opt for free cybersecurity awareness training?  Cybersecurity awareness training must be a...

Would you implement free security software organisation wide? No? Then why would you opt for free cybersecurity awareness training? 

Cybersecurity awareness training must be a staple in the development and learning for employees in each and every single industry. Cyber criminals and hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities and weak points to exploit, regardless of what level a worker finds themselves in a company.  

In fact, a small business in the UK is successfully hacked very 19 seconds, with an approximate 65,000 attempted hacks made every single day. According to FifoSys, 88% of UK businesses have suffered a security breach over the past year.  

For some Security Officers and Data Protection Officials, free cyber security training may appeal to your budget and your need for a quick fix in a laborious position. Unfortunately, this not only ignores the scale of cyber threats against your organisation but also does not give your employees the best possible chance to spot nefarious cyber actors and report breaches thereafter.  

In today’s The Insider, we will not only be looking at the importance of cybersecurity awareness training, but also the differences between free and paid options. Cybersecurity awareness and culture is simply not something you can skimp on! 

Why is cybersecurity awareness training so important?

Cybersecurity awareness training is the most impactful and effective method of teaching employees the cyber risks they face every single day, the signs they should look out for and the steps they should take in several compromising scenarios. Educating your employees is imperative to the protection and security of your data.

A comprehensive and engaging cybersecurity awareness training program will lower the risk of security threats and lower the chance of human errors leading to massive cybersecurity breaches. If you still do not think cybersecurity awareness is important, these worrying statistics should change your mind: 

  • 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error (CybintSolutions
  • 45% of beaches involved hacking, 17% were malware-based and 22% are phishing schemes (Verizon
  • The average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million and increasing every year (IBM Security
  • Security breaches have increased by 67% since 2014 (Accenture
  • 94% of malware is delivered by email (CSO Online
  • Phishing attacks account for more than 80% of reported security incidents (CSO Online

Companies both big and small need to ensure employees at all levels understand the importance of cybersecurity protection to reduce the risks of human error. Cybersecurity awareness training can never become a tick-the-box HR item that bores your workers or crucial information simply will not be drilled into them.  

The differences between free and paid cybersecurity awareness training 

  • Free is generic and tick-the-box vs Paid is targeted and engaging 

This is where the substantial difference between free and paid cybersecurity awareness training comes in: free cybersecurity training does the basics, yes, but does it truly educate your employees and help build a strong cybersecurity culture in your workforce? In truth, free cybersecurity resources are generic, singularly focused, and easily ignored.  

With paid cybersecurity awareness training, you are signing up to a tried and tested service that will build an entire program for you with targeted learning for issues and threats relevant to your organisation and your employees. Here, training is more interactive and can accommodate a variety of different learning styles. After all, no two individuals learn and retain information the same way.  

Training is also aligned to your security policies, specific roles and departments which will boost engagement, train relevantly and lead to lasting behavioural change – rather than be thrown away 5 minutes after viewing.  

  • Free is simple and unfocused vs Paid is your style and cohesive 

Paid cybersecurity awareness training can also be tailored to an organisation’s design and policies. As a result, you will get a cohesive campaign aimed at one uniform goal, as opposed to a campaign built on the foundations of disparate free recourses. Furthermore, free resources are often very generic and use standard protocols that you may wish to expand and build on.  

This is where bespoke cybersecurity training resources, such as that created by TSC, can be formulated to include your brand’s design elements, as well as your organisation’s specific protocols, whilst retaining a holistic view on cybersecurity. You can then freely distribute this learning throughout your organisation and throughout the year, knowing that it conforms to your rules and regulations.  

  • Paid cybersecurity awareness options offer learning management systems 

When we are talking about free cybersecurity awareness training, we are often referring to resources that are used as a one off. For instance, a poster on classification or a video about phishing. These free resources are often singular files that must be shared in-person or via email and can be hard to track if the information has been digested by your employees. Free cybersecurity awareness training is one-and-done and this does not work! 

Often, paid cybersecurity awareness options come with an LMS (Learning Management System). A CISO or DPO can then use the LMS to see if the learning is being taken on board and even see what threats employees are having an issue grasping. You get so much more referential and analytical data, which only works to further improve the efficiency and targeted nature of your awareness training, whilst also informing what you need to focus on in future education.  

  • Outdated free advice vs Up-to-date paid advice 

The biggest drawback of free cybersecurity awareness training and advice is that it is often outdated and may not follow best practice. For example, Wizer offers free security awareness training but suggests that passphrases without special characters make for strong passwords. This is does not line up with NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) advice and is not considered best practice. 

Paid cybersecurity awareness training not only makes sure that advice is regularly updated but you can rest assured that the content has been put together by cybersecurity professionals as opposed to a source-less free piece of awareness training.  

  • Customisation options 

We have touched on the customisation differences between free and paid cybersecurity awareness resources above but there really is a wide gap between the two. Free resources often come with generic logos or, even worse, watermarks and you are stuck with the language you find it in.  

Paid cybersecurity awareness programs and modules offer a wide range of customisation options. For example, at TSC, our infographics, learning and content can be translated into multiple languages whilst also pivoting to fit your company’s colour scheme and voice. This will not only make the learning feel like it has been produced internally and therefore must be taken seriously, but also ensures that every single employee (regardless of language barriers) can get the same information as their colleagues.  

  • Free assessments vs Paid assessments 

Cybersecurity awareness assessments are also available in both free and paid formats. So, which one should you opt for? Well, whilst free assessments can give you a high-level understanding of some of the aspects of your security culture, these free assessments are often limited by the lack of analytical or advisory data within their conclusion.  

Paid cybersecurity awareness assessments, such as TSC’s SABR tool, are created by behavioural psychologists with detailed questionnaires and analysis to pinpoint vulnerabilities in the human aspect of cybersecurity culture. 

We highly recommend a paid program 

Cybersecurity awareness training is essential for every single organisation. The ROI for this type of education is amazing considering the considerable amounts of money and data that has been lost to human error and hackers over the past decade.  

TSC’s paid cybersecurity awareness offers superior content and a variety of customisation options (in both design and language). Management tools and assessments are also on hand to inform your cybersecurity awareness training moving forward and to increase the efficiency of the learning.  

Of course, if you do not have the budget for paid cybersecurity awareness training, free options are better than nothing. However, you must keep in mind that you will see a less effective cybersecurity culture as the content is not targeted, is not engaging and could very well be out of date. 

A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology reveals that it takes anywhere from between 18 to 254 days to establish a habit, with the average being 66 days. Paid cybersecurity awareness training is the only way to build a team with smart security habits as you can provide consistent and updated training.  

It is fine to get a cybersecurity culture started with free resources, but consistency is the only way to ensure a strong cybersecurity culture. Paid cybersecurity awareness resources can use training modules, GIFs, AIGs, newsletters and an LMS to keep employees engaged all year round.  

TSC’s offering. No matter the attack service or platform, TSC’s service will ensure your employees are aware and knowledgeable of the threats they will come across.  

Written by
Nas Ali
Cyber security and awareness content creator focused on emerging threats and the next wave of cyber security risks like AI, deepfakes and tech 4.0 initiatives in order to build towards a more secure organisational culture.
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