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Organizations have been worrying about cyber security since the advent of the technological age. Today, digital transformation coupled with the rise of remote work has made the need for security awareness all the more critical.

Cyber security professionals are continuously thinking about how to prevent cyber security breaches from happening, with employees and contractors often proving to be the most significant risk factor for causing cyber security incidents. Proactive cyber security professionals will find that an effective security awareness training program can significantly reduce their risk of getting exposed to a cyber incident.

For a security awareness training program to be successful, it must be measurable and yield positive, actionable results over time.

The following looks at what good security awareness looks like and how vital phishing simulations and awareness training is in devising effective cyber security programs.

The essentials of a cyber security awareness training program

Employees represent security risks mainly because they are unaware of how their actions and decisions cause security incidents. To address this cause, enterprises undertake extensive security awareness training efforts to help employees know what they should and shouldn’t do when working digitally.

The mere act of exposing employees to security training is not enough; a program is not effective unless it produces results in building real skills that change employee behavior and empower them to make the right choice in the face of a cyberattack.

To achieve this, companies must select a security awareness training that is data-driven, adaptive per employee location, takes into account role and behavior towards cyber training, is continuous and high-frequency, and engages each employee at least once a month.

Some of the key features organizations should be looking for in a security awareness program can be divided into the following.

Continuous cyber education training and a hands-on approach

The more employees are exposed to real-life phishing emails and other security risks, the more likely they are to succeed in protecting the organization and assets against phishing, malware, and many other threats. However, with cybersecurity awareness, theoretical knowledge becomes even more valuable when put into practice. Therefore training must become a hands-on learning experience with simulations and concrete action.

Identify weakest links and employ real-time feedback

Statistically, fewer than 20 percent of employees in an organization are responsible for most human error-induced mistakes. To make sure all employees are properly trained, organizations must run simulations frequently – at least once a month. This is also where continuous feedback loops come into play. By engaging or disengaging with the content, employees reflect on the security gap that exists between them and the organizational risk, illustrating the need for cybersecurity awareness training in the first place. Moreover, when security events include real-time feedback, employees immediately understand the missteps and how to prevent similar situations in the future.

Culture and the scientific training method

Cyber security awareness must be ingrained in the organization’s daily practices without feeling like a daily grind. Organizations should make training an engaging, effortless, and seamless part of employees’ daily routines, regularly encouraging continuous learning via small digestible security awareness learning bites.

Behind effective cyber security training is often a scientific method. A next gen approach to security awareness training should focus bringing together learning expertise, data science, and automation.

How to Measure Progress

Having a training program in place is a great start, but organizations must ask themselves: how do I know if my security awareness training is working?

Organizations usually rely solely at click rates (e.g. how many employees click on phishing simulations) to measure success. And this is precisely where they go wrong.

Companies must focus on progress over time, and not just measure participation.

When measuring the success of a security awareness program, it’s all about context.

Companies should look for qualitative, not simply quantitative results. For instance, if a company sends out three phishing simulations over a year, there is no way of knowing whether one was sent while an employee was on vacation or if an employee clicked because they were new to the company or whether the email went unnoticed due to a flurry of meetings and other tasks.

images from Hacker News