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A Positive Security Awareness Training Program Reduces Insider Cyber Threats

Published On:
April 18, 2024
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The number of insider cybersecurity incidents spiked in recent years, putting business leaders in a difficult position. The vast majority of employees do their level best to exercise due diligence and protect a company’s digital assets. By that same token, some are malicious actors, while others trigger incidents because they lack security awareness training. A recent study conducted by the Ponemon Institute highlights the growing risks of cyberattacks from within.

  • Insider threat incidents rose by 44 percent during the last two years.
  • The cost per incident increased by more than 33 percent to $15.38 million.
  • The average time required to contain insider threats ticked up from 77 days to 85 days.
  • Incidents that exceeded 90 days to contain cost organizations an average of $17.19 million.

It’s important to understand the cost of any data breach is spread over a range of losses. These typically include downtime, declining profitability, paying ransomware demands, as well as the costs associated with retrieving data and system restoration. These out-of-pocket expenses often pale in comparison to reputational damages.

When an organization’s system suffers a breach, hackers may also gain access to valuable information about vendors and customers. Even industry colleagues may lose faith a company possesses the ability to protect data associated with a business relationship. When these reputation hits occur, the long-term impact of an insider incident can shutter a company. On the other side of the coin, business professionals need to onboard effective cybersecurity policies and practices that don’t treat good people like the company’s enemies.

What Decision-Makers Need to Know About Insider Threats

Although the consequences of insider threats are dire, it’s crucial for company leaders to avoid having a knee-jerk reaction. More than half of insider incidents have been attributed to negligence and not misconduct. Only a reported 26 percent of internal incidents were due to illegal or unethical intent.

Careless employees or contractors with legitimate access to a system usually fail to recognize phishing schemes or practice cybersecurity fundamentals. Many of these issues have their roots in a lack of security awareness training. These are signs business network users are putting an enterprise at risk that can be measured by using advanced cyber analytics.

  • Employees do not fully comprehend privacy and data security mandates that apply to their industry.
  • Staff members do not understand vulnerabilities inherent in unsecured endpoint devices.
  • Network users routinely transmit confidential data to unsecured locations.
  • Employees take shortcuts around cybersecurity policies to simplify their tasks.
  • Users log into public Wi-Fi instead of a company’s virtual private network.

Regardless of whether legitimate network users are ignorant about cybersecurity or shrug off the ramifications of getting hacked, positive-facing security awareness training sends a clear message. It says your organization is determined to improve its defensive posture by bringing stakeholders to the table in a non-punitive fashion.

By investing in valuable resources and providing incentives for proactive employees, a company achieves two essential goals. It reduces the likelihood of an insider threat and helps retain talented staff members through a demonstration of trust.

Creating An Effective Training Program

The World Economic Forum indicated that upwards of 95 percent of all cybersecurity incidents can be traced to human error. That’s why workers and other external network users represent an organization’s weakest link. But by designing a proactive security awareness program that encourages an engaging workplace cybersecurity culture, team members can be transformed into a determined front-line defense. To accomplish this seemingly Herculean feat, the following three-pronged approach delivers critical benefits.

Inclusive Security Awareness Training

It may prove helpful to think of cybersecurity in terms of physical fitness. An effective program requires training through concise and intense repetitions. This approach is a lot like doing a set of abdominal crunches or bench presses that improve muscle tone and strength. It’s also the opposite of hours-long cardio on the treadmill, which results in the mind wandering off task.

Companies typically work with cybersecurity awareness training professionals to design a program that includes industry privacy and data security regulations. They also account for nuances related to the niche operation. This generally involves best practices for handling, storing, and transmitting sensitive information, among others. At its core, the security awareness training program must include the entire workforce to avoid the appearance of bias. When everyone is treated fairly and equally, organizations can create a thriving cybersecurity environment.

Phishing Simulations

According to a Verizon cybersecurity analysis, approximately 40 percent of all data breaches involved phishing schemes. Phishing has emerged as the preferred choice of hackers who send out thousands of malicious emails hoping to ensnare unsuspecting workers.

For everyday people to be able to identify phishing emails and other dangerous electronic messages, they require specific security awareness training. They also need ongoing exposure from simulations to make recognition second nature. It takes one wrong click on a phishing email link or the download of a malware-laced file to upend a business system.

The good news is that next-generation technology has opened the door to phishing simulations driven by AI. A user-friendly platform allows team members to engage in phishing simulations in a positive and timely fashion. This AI approach also helps alleviate the workload of already overburdened IT departments.

Valuable Cyber Analytics

It wasn’t uncommon for passive instructional videos to be used for security awareness training just a few years ago. The problem with that approach is the idle experience tends to mirror the way people engage in online entertainment. It may just as easily forgotten as the plot of a Netflix series you found dull.

For organizations to make cybersecurity strides, active learning and participation are necessary. That’s why security awareness training must be accompanied by hard data and cyber analytics. Effective training sessions must offer employees prompt feedback about key metrics if they are to make gains.

For example, knowing someone’s phishing click rate allows them to focus on improving. The hard data also helps employers understand their overall breach risk and take proactive measures to harden the operation’s defense. But perhaps the key to putting cyber analytics to work involves creating a non-punitive environment that encourages individual growth.

Recognizing Good Behavior in the Workplace

The effectiveness of a security awareness training efforts is largely dependent on how employees perceive the program. If staff members view it as another task that reduces their productivity and leads to more stress, they are likely to treat it like an unwelcome chore. That’s why positive employee attitudes are the bedrock of successful cybersecurity programs.

In order to gain the trust and motivation of employees, cybersecurity awareness improvement call for positive reinforcement. These are ways members of the leadership team can encourage and incentivize training programs.

Adopt A Praise Mindset

Employees generally need to feel safe to learn new things. This holds true in the cybersecurity space because few staff members have experience of technical expertise. Rather than point out someone’s shortcomings in metrics such as phishing click-thru rates, highlight their incremental growth. Use encouraging one-on-one dialogue that underscores the newness of the program and how you’re all in it together. It may also be appropriate to talk about departmental improvement rates to reinforce a company-wide cybersecurity culture.

Provide Personalized Incentives

Monetary incentives generally prove effective in areas such as sales and production rates. But an extra bump in someone’s paycheck may not be the best way to motivate cybersecurity awareness. Consider focusing on more personalized incentives, such as a favorite latte or taking the department out for lunch on the company after reaching a cybersecurity goal. It may also be effective to use individual security training report cards to incentivize personal bests. When someone improves one or more of the cyber analytics metrics, that’s a reason for some form of incentive. Keep in mind that supporting individual gains helps buoy a rich, non-competitive cybersecurity culture.

Positive Security Awareness Training Makes Staff Members Part of the Solution

The insider threats posed by negligence, lack of training, and employees taking risky shortcuts tasks business leaders with changing the culture. A proactive security awareness training program helps mitigate the rise in cyberattacks from within as well as hackers targeting honest businesses from halfway around the world. With the proper encouragement, incentives, and reliable cyber analytics, valued staff members can take pride in deterring threats.The next-generation approach to security awareness training, phishing simulations, and cyber analytics crafted by PhishFirewall offers a unique opportunity to encourage employees to be part of the solution. Before your organization suffers a debilitating cyberattack, click here to schedule a free demo.