Cybersecurity Awareness Training Definition & Meaning

Cybersecurity awareness training informs employees of the attack surfaces and vectors in their company and how they can avoid falling victim to attacks. Cyberattacks plague businesses, and hackers look for the smallest margin through which they can enter a company network. Employees are often considered the weakest link in a company’s security (and that’s not always wrong). Thoroughly training employees on cyberattacks and social engineering methods will prepare them to be cautious and discerning as they use company networks and resources.

Cyber attacks for employees to recognize

Minimum phishing and cyberattack methods for employees to be familiar with include:

Suspicious emails. Sometimes these end up in a spam folder, but sometimes they don’t. Often emails from attackers include links, through which an employee downloads malware onto their computer by clicking.

Any links. Unfamiliar (or even familiar) links may download viruses onto an employee’s device, but they may also take the employee to a webpage that looks familiar. Attackers try to steal credentials by falsifying a website and encouraging employees to log in there.

Strange phone calls. Voice phishing, or vishing, requests employee credentials or other sensitive data over the phone. Most legitimate organizations won’t do this unless a person initiates a conversation with them (like an insurance company, for example).

Strange texts. SMS phishing, or smishing, often contains malicious links that employees click on their mobile devices. An attacker then has access to the personal device’s network and potentially the company network, too.

Precautions for employees to take

Precautions vary between organizations, but a good starting point is a thorough security policy that involves personal devices. If employees are allowed to use their own devices for work or download a company app on a personal phone, they should also be trained on proper security protocols. For example:

  • Do employees need a password on their personal devices or accounts?
  • Are they permitted to use any Wi-Fi network, or should they only use private, password-protected networks if they’re accessing company data?
  • Are there any third-party applications they should avoid?

Training methods

Security awareness comes in multiple formats. Receiving more than one training session helps establish better thought processes in employees’ minds, especially when they’re being regularly reminded to delete spam emails, hover over a link rather than clicking, and always check with a manager when they receive a strange request.

Regular meetings and notifications

Even simple messages from IT personnel can make employees more aware of phishing attempts and other threats. If a system admin or IT worker sends a Slack message a month, for example, alerting or warning employees of recent malicious emails or phone calls, that will be fresh on their minds.

Penetration testing

Penetration testing is planned by a business that hires a third-party testing organization to infiltrate its networks. The third party sends phishing emails to employees and gauges how many employees click a link, for example, or refuse to even read the email. Once the business has data from the third party, they can address those weaknesses and mistakes that their employees made.

Cybersecurity awareness training software

Training platforms are available for organizations, offering information and courses that cover topics like compliance and phishing techniques. Some may focus more on informative videos, while some security training solutions are interactive and entertaining. Training software provides a variety of resources that raise employee awareness of the many attacks they may see and help them spot the weaknesses within their business. Top security awareness training vendors include:

  • Infosec
  • KnowBe4
  • Webroot
  • Barracuda Networks PhishLine
  • HoxHunt

Compliance

One of the most important reasons to train employees on security is compliance. The GDPR requires any company with European Union customers to train employees in its data protection practices. Companies that fail to comply with data protection regulations can suffer from significant fines and can lose customers. To remain compliant, companies benefit from teaching their employees how to protect sensitive customer data.

 

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Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps is a contributor for websites such as Webopedia.com and Enterprise Storage Forum. She writes about information technology security, networking, and data storage. Jenna lives in Nashville, TN.

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