Developing a Successful Security Awareness Program
With employees getting repeated warnings about cyber threats and safe information security practices, it is not uncommon for them to consider them as routine precautionary messages and overlook the importance of these security warnings.
While most of us understand the importance of keeping our information secure at workplace, we also tend to think that a bad incident will not happen with us. This is the reason why according to various surveys, human negligence is the biggest threat to the security of computer and information systems.
To make the information security awareness training program workable within an organization, what is more important than technology solutions is the awareness and training of its workforce, with special emphasis on employees interacting with sensitive information, computer systems and networks.
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Developing a Successful Security Awareness Program Over the past few years, the prevalence of cyber-attacks has greatly intensified. As a result, the success of our security awareness program no longer depends upon annual or biannual trainings alone. Rather, the need of the hour is to educate them with a purpose to instill a security conscious behaviour in day-to-day proceedings.
How can I Make the Awareness Program more Effective?
* Keep the Awareness Program an Ongoing Process
Your security awareness program should be a regular part of everyday job routine. Do not consider it only as an annual or bi-annual training program. The real challenge lies in gradually integrating it into all the components in a manner that is easily accepted, understood and practiced.
* Evaluate the Response
Monitoring the response of the users gives you an accurate feedback in understanding the effectiveness of the security awareness program. This will allow to create a security awareness training program that is adaptive to the weaknesses found within the organization and focus on mitigation of vulnerabilities where human role either plays a direct role or acts as a catalyst.
* Prepare High Quality Content
Develop your training content customized to the audience’s requirement. Conducting trainings based on generic content may serve basic purpose, but it will not cater to security training required by individual job roles. For instance, training content for technical staff and customer services staff in a financial institution should be different.
* Communicate through Various Channels
Do not rely on one channel for spreading security awareness alone. Develop training content, educate employees, provide them with the required set of tools, and also spread continual awareness through emails, flyers and memorandums. Do it regularly so that it never escapes their mind.
* Use the Right Training Material
Every individual is surrounded by different environmental factors and perceives risks differently, which eventually affects the decisions we make. These factors need to be kept in mind when creating training materials and conducting the trainings. Online security awareness trainings are the most common way - they should get together all content that is relevant in the daily job for each employee. Quizzes and interactive slides must be inserted to gauge their understanding.
* Instill the Importance of Security
The success of a security awareness program cannot exactly be measured against any predefined metrics. What really counts in its success is to ensure that all employees perform their duties in a desired manner and are conscious of the importance of security. Once they develop the “how to” concept of going about critical tasks, the program is already on its way to success.
* Identify Potential Security Breaches
To identify what kind of security breaches could occur as a result of human negligence, conduct social engineering experiments and test their ability to handle real attacks. Simulation tools can also be used to train employees on what kind of attacks they can face.
* Keep Improving
Conduct quizzes during training sessions to ascertain the knowledge of the audience. Check if the results improve with time. These results serve as a feedback to allow you to keep asking yourself where you can make improvement in your sessions and what needs to be improved.
* Design the Steps of your Security Awareness Program
Keep your security awareness program as a step-wise process. The approach used in software development can be helpful here. i.e. Design, Execution, Testing, Deployment. A better way is to take an already implemented methodology for software development and map it to your program. This will make it easier for you to answer questions such as “What is the progress?”, “What are the outcomes?”, “ What needs to be done next?”
* Awareness on Social Engineering
Oral as well as written communication in creating security awareness seems to have a greater and long lasting impact on the audience as compared to written communication alone. This is why media such as newsletters, emails and other awareness notes tend to have a low impact in achieving positive results. This is because many employees tend to ignore such messages, do not take the time to read them, or simply put them away for reading later.
A better approach is to deliver trainings through Learning Management Systems or delivering personal feedback messages via email, in case of carelessness on part of an employee. The most effective approach, however, with a higher and long lasting impact is to practically involve the audience. This can happen through phishing simulations, pushing SMS alerts, checking response through test emails, checking if clean desk policies are being adhered to, and giving physical access challenges.
When employees are directly involved in a situation that gives immediate results on their performance, it creates a sense of achievement which eventually ensures that they stay more alert and aware. And you have the right feedback in your security awareness program.
What Do We Conclude?
The success of a security awareness program lies in how effective it is in influencing the behaviors and attitudes of individuals using the IT systems. The IT security policy and other rules should be communicated in a manner that not only changes the attitude of the listener as an employee but as an individual by encouraging security practices as a part of routine.