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Importance of Security Awareness Training: 10 Factors to Consider 

April 2, 2024

What’s the importance of security awareness training?

In this guide, we’ll review 10 reasons every organization should consider implementing security awareness training. 

We’ll also tell you why training alone isn’t foolproof (hint: it has something to do with the amount of employee personal information available online) and the additional steps you can take to empower your “human firewall.” 

10 Reasons for Security Awareness Training 

Below are 10 reasons security awareness training makes sense for every organization. 

1. Most breaches start with humans

    No matter how advanced your network security controls are, a human being can jeopardize your organization in a few seconds. 

    Twitter/X post about a data breach that happened with human error

    About three-quarters (74%) of breaches involve the human factor. Think employees making errors, misusing their account privileges, having their credentials stolen, or falling victim to social engineering attacks.

    A lot of the time, it’s simple mistakes, like employees reusing passwords across work and home devices (44% do this) or not changing credentials after a data breach (45% admit to this), that expose your organization to unnecessary risk. 

    It’s not getting any better, either – the number of people reporting password reuse is growing, not shrinking. 

    2. There are more attacks targeting humans 

      Even with decent security strategies, companies are at risk due to the sheer volume of attacks their employees are experiencing. In 2023, phishing attacks were the top cause of reported data breaches. 

      The average organization receives up to five targeted phishing attacks every day, putting employees on the front lines of determining whether an email is legitimate.

      3. Threat actors (and the tools they have) are getting more sophisticated 

      AI-driven password crackers can now crack the most common passwords in under a minute, and deepfake AI can create deepfakes that are so convincing that employees have reportedly paid out $25 million to criminals. 

      By regularly training employees, you can help them stay current with the latest threats and teach them how to recognize and respond to them.

      4. Security awareness training can be part of compliance requirements 

      Many industries have regulations that necessitate organizations to maintain certain security standards, including regularly educating their workforce about security. 

      Training helps comply with laws such as HIPAA that mandate data protection and privacy.

      5. Consumers care about their privacy 

      When customers know that a company trains its employees in security practices, they may have more trust and confidence in that company’s ability to protect their sensitive data. 

      Unfortunately, most companies seem to fall short – 70% of consumers think that companies aren’t doing enough to protect their data. 

      6. A strong security culture doesn’t happen by accident 

      It’s not just the IT department’s job to ensure security; every employee plays a part. The problem is, they might not know it. 

      • 71% of employees say they took a risky action, and 96% did so knowingly, according to the State of the Phish survey. 
      • Just 41% of users said they know they are responsible for cybersecurity at their workplace. 7% said they’re not responsible at all, and 52% weren’t sure. 

      One of the main reasons employees take risky actions is because they’re not sure who is accountable for security. 

      What’s particularly worrying is that there appears to be a disconnect between what employees believe and what security professionals think. More than 8 in 10 security professionals think most employees know they’re responsible for cybersecurity. 

      Security awareness training helps build a strong security culture where security becomes a shared responsibility. 

      7. IT and security teams can have a lighter load

      Well-trained employees reduce the workload on IT departments by minimizing preventable security incidents. 

      For example, an employee who is able to spot a targeted phishing attack won’t share sensitive information with criminals or enable ransomware. This allows IT professionals to spend more time on strategic initiatives, including implementing preventative measures.

      8. Knowing what an attack looks like can help reduce response times 

      Trained employees are more likely to spot and report security incidents quickly, reducing the potential damage and aiding in rapid response and mitigation.

      9. Aware employees = a network of security advocates 

      Employees who are well-versed in security practices can advocate for security within their teams, promoting good practices among their peers and contributing to the security culture of the organization.

      10. A deeper understanding of cyber attacks on the business 

      Through training, employees better understand how their actions impact business continuity. 

      For example, they can learn why it’s crucial to follow procedures for data backup, secure remote access, and proper handling of sensitive information.

      Why Security Awareness Training Is Not Enough 

      Even though security awareness training can improve employees’ ability to spot and stop attacks, it’s not enough to completely prevent data breaches. 

      This is partly due to human psychology. Even after receiving training, employees are likely to use easy-to-remember passwords (that are just as easily decoded) and fall for phishing scams.

      Another part of the problem is that attacks can come from multiple directions, and businesses aren’t adequately preparing their workforce for it. 

      73% of organizations reported a Business Email Compromise (BEC) attack in the past year, but only 29% are teaching their users about it. Similarly, only 23% of organizations train their users on how to recognize and prevent telephone-oriented attacks, even though reports of these have risen in the recent past.

      Reddit post about security awareness training

      Reducing the Risk of Personal Information Attacks

      Attackers are increasingly using employees’ personal information to:

      • Tailor their phishing campaigns (whether email, text, or phone call) to their targets.
      • Impersonate them to their colleagues.
      • Access their accounts by guessing their passwords and security questions.

      Educate your employees about the importance of shrinking their online footprints to reduce your human attack surface.

      The less information exists about employees online, the less cyber criminals will have to work with when guessing passwords or creating targeted spear phishing attacks. 

      Ideally, you should train your employees on the importance of keeping their online presence private. This includes limiting the amount of personal information they share publicly on social media and removing personally identifying information from blogs, forums, and other online accounts. 

      You should also enroll them in a data broker removal service. 

      According to leaked internal chat transcripts from cybercriminal groups, data brokers are one of the biggest sources of employee information. 

      Data brokers are companies that collect public information into single profiles and then sell them to any parties willing to pay a small fee. 

      Profiles can include details like employees’ names, phone numbers, email addresses, family information, employment history, education, and organizational charts. In short, everything a criminal needs to plan and execute an attack. 

      Data broker profile

      While it is possible to manually opt out of data brokers, doing so at scale and continuously is difficult (data brokers relist people as soon as they find more data on them). 

      As a result, many organizations choose to subscribe their employees to a data broker removal service such as DeleteMe. 

      How does DeleteMe privacy protection work?

      1. Employees, Executives, and Board Members complete a quick signup 
      2. DeleteMe scans for exposed personal information
      3. Opt-out and removal requests begin
      4. Initial privacy report shared and ongoing reporting initiated
      5. DeleteMe provides continuous privacy protection and service all year

        Your employees’ personal data is on the web for the taking.

        DeleteMe is built for organizations that want to decrease their risk from vulnerabilities ranging from executive threats to cybersecurity risks.

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