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How can security awareness trainings protect your organization

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The global pandemic unveiled the possibilities to work from home for millions of people. But behind the new comfortable lifestyle, the threat landscape has also changed. Cyber attackers started to pounce almost instantaneously as the human factor was always one of the most common reasons for their success.

Raising security awareness and educating employees became an essential part of the day-to-day work routine. Today, more and more companies are eager to organize cybersecurity training for their teams and are looking for the most efficient ways to do so. Let’s take a closer look at the essential aspects of security awareness training that can help protect your company against cyber threats.

When it comes to cybersecurity training eventually it all comes down to two points:

1) Basic training for all employees

2) Additional training of IT teams

Both of these should be carried out first as a part of the onboarding process and then on an ongoing basis every year or even often.

Basic training 

General training should be organized for all employees inside the company. This may also apply to the contractors who have access to your IT ecosystem. 

The training covers the following aspects:

  • Company’s security policies and procedures  
  • Personal data protection  
  • Phishing awareness training  
  • Essential cybersecurity for remote workers  
  • Personal online security 

The goal here is to form the right mindset and skills. You have to be patient and persevering. The results will come over time.

First off, you need to define the areas to focus on. You can conduct a brief survey among the team and collect statistics on the awareness level. This will help you figure out where exactly the gaps are. After you define the training program you need to choose the format. It might be recorded videos or podcasts, posters in the office break room, live presentations offline or online, etc.

Finally, it’s crucial to determine how you will monitor your progress to make sure the training goes in the right direction and at the right pace. You need to understand what specific results you are hoping to achieve, what will be success for you in this case.

Training for software development teams

For your IT departments, it makes sense to supplement the general training with additional education. It should be focused on raising awareness of threats, risks, and application security best practices.  Such training should also include the fundamentals of the Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC).

The initial algorithm is the same as with general training. You need to analyze the current level of awareness and skills, plan the training, choose the tools you will use, and define how the progress will be monitored. Below are some useful tips to do that.

1. Starting With Application Security Fundamentals

This training covers high-level information about Secure SDLC and vulnerabilities from OWASP Top 10 will lay a solid groundwork on secure development principles. Fundamental training should also introduce teams to the basic principles of secure design. It’s important to conduct this training for all software development team members.

2. Adding Role-Based Application Security Training

Now it’s time to deepen your team’s knowledge with a good technical understanding of the OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities and the most common remediation strategies for each issue.

At this stage, team members should undergo different types of application security training depending on the team member’s role. Developers are trained on the coding standards and on the technologies they interact with. Testers are trained on how to identify security defects and what tools can be used to do so. Product managers receive training on topics related to Secure SDLC security practices.

It’s also important to add practical tasks where possible to make the training more illustrative.

3. Purchasing External vs. Developing Internal Training

All forms of training programs can be conducted internally or externally. Internal sessions are delivered by in-house specialists. Seniors coach juniors. But, usually, the experts of such rank are busy with their own regular activities and find it difficult to allocate time. Moreover, the expertise from someone who already works for your organization level may be insufficient for creating a complete cybersecurity awareness course. 

External training delivered by third-party specialists can be a good alternative. It gives you the opportunity to learn from industry influencers and highly qualified experts. They can also reveal new approaches that you might not have considered before. However, the average cost may be higher.

If you decide to use external training, it makes sense to pay attention to such aspects as the quality of content, reporting capabilities, ease of administration, and of course the price.

You can make a power move and develop the basic training internally and purchase the external training for more advanced levels. This will surely maximize your results.

4. Indicators, Metrics, and Reports

If you want to be effective you need to know where you are, and how well and how fast you should proceed. Surveys and security awareness assessments are essential for both you and your team. They help your company understand how well content and learning resonates with people and for your team members to be able to benchmark how well they have progressed.

5. Making Your Security Awareness Training an Ongoing Process

Most organizations conduct training at least once a year. It’s a good habit, but the current situation in the world indicates that this may not be enough. Today, you need to maintain a culture of information security. You need to make security awareness a continuous process. The format of small and engaging assignments on the portal or in the form of short videos delivered frequently helps to maintain security awareness along the way.

You can also leverage social engineering practice tests where employees will have to decide what to do in certain situations (notify the responsible party, ignore the malicious link or follow it, etc). These actions will determine whether the organization is at risk regarding cybersecurity incidents. However, make sure you don’t push such tests too often.

Final thoughts

Cybersecurity awareness training is essential for business sustainability. But you should bear in mind that no type of training is a silver bullet. Thus, it’s vital to understand that these training should be an integral part of the company's processes and conducted on a regular basis. Implement them step by step and continuously work towards raising the awareness of all employees across your organization. 

Dmytro Tereshchenko, Head of the Information Security Department, Sigma Software Group

Dmytro Tereshchenko is the Head of the Information Security Department at Sigma Software Group with over 16 years of experience in IT.