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Effective security training programs are vital to creating a cyber-aware workforce

BrandPost By Rob Rashotte
Jun 26, 20235 mins

Creating and maintaining a comprehensive training program increases the likelihood that employees have the necessary insight to identify potential attacks.

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Credit: iStock

A knowledgeable, well-staffed security team is essential to any comprehensive risk management strategy. Yet when it comes to cyber incidents, the reality is that it's typically your employees--not just your security analysts--who are your enterprise's first line of defense. According to a recent Fortinet research brief, 81% of organizations faced attacks last year that directly targeted users, such as malware, phishing, and password attacks. 

When it comes to protecting your organization's assets, employees play a leading role in halting breaches. However, depending on how cyber-aware they are, they can be your best defense or your weakest link. That's why implementing an ongoing security awareness and training program is crucial to managing organizational risk. Creating and maintaining a comprehensive training program increases the likelihood that employees have the necessary insight to identify potential attacks and know what to do if they suspect they’re a target.

4 considerations for enhancing security training effectiveness

It's encouraging that more than 80% of organizations surveyed in recent research have existing security awareness training programs. However, among this same group of leaders, the majority (56%) still believe that their employees lack knowledge about cybersecurity best practices. This disconnect shows that there’s likely room for improvement regarding organization-wide cyber awareness education efforts.

Whether you already have security awareness training in place or are just getting started with implementation, here are four essential factors to consider to enhance the effectiveness of your program.

  • Establish a vision and articulate the organization’s future state: All too often, security awareness initiatives are launched with the hope that delivering mandatory training will drive behavioral change and improve the organization’s security posture. Establishing a vision for the program and articulating what employees should take away from the training and why it is important will make learners more receptive to the program. Find opportunities to communicate this vision. Ideally, these messages should come from multiple voices across your enterprise’s leadership team, and they should be addressed periodically through different communication mediums, such as a quarterly all-hands meeting.
  • Cover relevant topics: As the threat landscape evolves, the topics you’ll need to cover in cyber awareness training will also change. Of course, multiple key areas of concern--including phishing attacks, ransomware, social engineering, passwords and authentication, remote work, and more--must be addressed in any training program. Include threats unique to your organization or industry, as well, and reevaluate the material periodically to adjust or add new content as needed.
  • Consider the context: The content you deliver in your training program should depend on the audience taking it. In short, different groups within your organization will benefit from unique training content. For example, your software engineers and other technical-focused employees might need to know about protecting your organization's IP or the potential impacts of writing unsecured code. Administrative personnel need to understand how to spot phishing emails and the dangers of clicking on a link or attachment. While the overall concepts covered in training sessions might be similar for both groups, delivering that material with relevant context is beneficial for several reasons. For starters, this increases the chances that learners will take the training seriously and better understand their specific role in safeguarding the organization.
  • Develop a long-term engagement strategy: Cyber awareness training is not a "set it and forget it" activity. Rather than viewing these initiatives as training programs, consider them change management initiatives with a significant training component. Determine how you’ll periodically communicate the initiative to the organization and what “nudge” techniques you’ll implement to encourage employees to engage with the content.  

What to look for in a vendor-developed security awareness program

While some organizations have the resources to develop security awareness training in-house, many do not. When evaluating existing offerings, organizations should look for a SaaS-based offering that delivers timely and current awareness training on today's cybersecurity threats. Training sessions should be engaging, interactive, and delivered through various rich media formats, with quizzes and knowledge checks to test employees’ understanding and retention of the content. 

An effective security awareness training offering should also be easy for your administrators to implement and track. Fortinet's Security Awareness and Training service achieves this, offering an up-to-date dashboard of campaign and user activity with out-of-the-box reporting, an intuitive administrative interface, and the ability to customize or co-brand the service.

Security awareness initiatives are an essential part of any risk management strategy. These efforts help IT, security, and compliance leaders build a cyber-aware culture where employees can easily recognize and avoid falling victim to cyberattacks. As cybercrime proliferates, there's no better time to create a cyber education initiative or reevaluate your existing program.

Find out more about how Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and Training Institute programs--including the NSE Certification programAcademic Partner program, and Education Outreach program--are helping to solve the cyber skills gap and prepare the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow.