Human-Centric Cyber Security Training for Employees By: Monique Danao January 25, 2024 Estimated reading time: 5 minutes. Employees play a crucial role in safeguarding important company-related information. They are the first line of defense but can also present a vulnerability. That’s why it’s important to make sure every employee is well versed in cyber security. Wondering how to train your employees? This article will discuss the importance of cyber security awareness training for all employees, not just technical teams. We’ll also cover effective methods to educate and empower them against evolving online threats. Why cyber security training is essential A lot of attacks start with an employee innocuously clicking on something they shouldn't. Cyber security training teaches people how to spot scams, create strong passwords, and keep company information secure. Essentially, it's an important life skill that enables them to protect themselves and the company while working in the digital world. In fact, many cyber attacks specifically aim to target employees: Over 91% of successful cyber attacks.) begin with a phishing email. These emails include deceptive messages that trick employees into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. According to the FBI's Internet Crime Report, Business Email Compromise (BEC) and Email Account Compromise (EAC) scams resulted in over $1.8 billion in losses in 2020. Most cases relied on targeting employees through email. 66% of organizations report an increased cyber security risk when employees work remotely or use personal devices. 74% of data breaches between November 2021 and October 2022 involved a human element. These include human errors, stolen credentials, social engineering, and privilege misuse. A Stanford University study found that employee mistakes contributed to 88% of data breaches. Cyber threats keep evolving, and employees are a prime target: phishing emails, sneaky scams, and even harmless-looking messages can carry serious risks. Let's take a look at some real-life examples of data breaches due to employee negligence. Yahoo! The 2013 Yahoo! data breach compromised over 3 billion user accounts. It all began with a spear-phishing email delivered to Yahoo employees. While it's unknown how many employees received the email, it only took one person to click the wrong link. Equifax The Equifax data breach is one of the most significant breaches in history, impacting over 147 million people. It resulted from a known vulnerability in Apache's Struts software. A patch was never deployed, so hackers exploited the vulnerability and gained access to sensitive personal information. Twitter The July 2020 Twitter data breach resulted from spear phishing attacks targeting employees. The assailants impersonated Twitter IT staff, contacting several employees through phone calls and emails — ultimately convincing them to provide their credentials. These compromised credentials were then used to access Twitter's internal systems, allowing the attackers to take control of verified accounts belonging to prominent individuals and companies. Fraudulent messages demanding cryptocurrency transfers appeared on verified, high-profile accounts like those of Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Apple and Uber, among others. (Image: TechCrunch) Benefits of employee cyber training: Employee cyber training brings several key benefits, which include: Protecting company assets and data Employees who undergo cyber security training become more alert and informed about potential threats. They learn to recognize suspicious emails, phishing attempts, or dubious websites, reducing the likelihood of falling victim to cyberattacks. Heightened awareness improves the organization's overall security. Even better, trained employees don't just follow the rules; they become proactive protectors. From accounting to sales, each department can look for anything suspicious. The entire team is dedicated to guarding company secrets so everything gets in the right hands. Preserving and strengthening company reputation Trust is a big deal in business. When a company shows it takes cyber security training seriously, clients and partners feel safe sharing their information. They earn the trust and credibility of clients, partners, and stakeholders. Their commitment to protecting sensitive information enhances the company's reputation and helps position it as a trustworthy entity in the market. News about data breaches can lead to mistrust, so having a clean reputation is gold. By ensuring teams are well-prepared, a company can avoid the messy fallout from a breach. Moreover, clients and partners trust companies that put their security first. Reducing risks and financial losses According to IBM’s report, the global cost associated with data breaches in 2023 represented $4.45M USD. In addition, companies with a good cyber security set-up can save 1.76 million with security artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Top industries impacted by data breaches: 1. Financial sector: Banking, insurance and investment companies 2. Services sector: Companies offering professional legal, accounting and consulting services 3. Technology sector: Software and hardware companies 4. Industrial sector: Chemical processing and engineering and manufacturing companies 5. Energy sector: Oil and gas companies, utilities and alternative energy producers and suppliers It’s in a company’s best financial interest to prevent data breaches and scams given the hefty bills that come with fixing those kinds of messes. More importantly, trained employees are the first line of defense during a data breach, catching issues early and stopping them from turning into expensive disasters. What should cyber security training include? Cyber security training should include a comprehensive range of topics and methodologies to ensure employees are well-prepared to tackle cyber threats. Tailored training modules for different departments Different departments handle distinct types of sensitive data and may face unique cyber risks. For example, while the IT department might require in-depth technical training on network security and system vulnerabilities, the marketing team might benefit more from understanding social engineering threats common in their communication channels. A tailored training module ensures cyber security measures address a department's vulnerabilities. It can include real-life examples and case studies relevant to each department's functions. For example, finance teams can learn about common financial fraud attempts, while the HR department may focus on protecting employee data. By tailoring content within the context of specific tasks, employees can understand the impact of cyber threats on their particular roles. Furthermore, it fosters a sense of ownership in protecting critical company assets. Regular updates on new threats and protocols Cyber threats evolve at a rapid pace. As a result, it's essential to stay educated and updated on the latest threats and security protocols. Offering information on new threats, hacking techniques, and security measures ensures that employees remain vigilant. Likewise, share real-time examples of recent cyber incidents during training sessions to make the updates more relevant. If you can provide tangible examples of recent cyberattacks and solutions, you can foster a culture of preparedness. You can also ensure employees are equipped to respond effectively to the latest cyber threats. Hands-on training sessions and simulations Hands-on training sessions and simulations let employees respond to real-world cyber threats in a controlled environment. Some common types of simulations are simulated phishing attacks, mock breaches, and scenario-based exercises. These scenarios enable employees to identify, respond, and mitigate risks. In addition, they can experience the consequences of falling victim to phishing attempts, malware downloads, or social engineering tactics from a firsthand perspective. Hands-on training sessions can instill confidence in cyber security response mechanisms. As employees gain awareness, they become more adept at spotting red flags and making informed judgments in case of a real threat. Expert insights on cyber security In the online world, complete security is unattainable. Taking proactive measures and remaining aware of potential threats is essential. American professor and Cyber security expert Gene Spafford said, "The only truly secure system is powered off, cast in a block of concrete, and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards." Former White House CIO Theresa Payton believes having a playbook is essential. Payton told Fraud Magazine, "When you're in the middle of a breach, what you do will define your reputation for years. The best approach is to practice a digital disaster before you have a breach. You need to develop a playbook so everyone knows their roles and will highlight gaps in your Cyber security plans." Fortunately, keeping your team up-to-date on latest threats is easy thanks to these accessible online resources: Texas Department of Information Resources The Texas Department of Information Resources offers a cyber security awareness training program on YouTube. LinkedIn Learning LinkedIn Learning provides a vast library of cyber security courses suitable for various skill levels. It covers topics from Cyber Security Foundations to the Cyber Security Threat Landscape. Infosec The Infosec Institute offers a cyber security training series titled "Work Bytes." The video features a cast of creative characters who experience common cyber security threats throughout their daily tasks. Thanks to their security team, they can identify and keep the company secure from a potential data breach. Training employees to identify cyber threats Human-centric cyber security training isn't just a trend; it's a culture. It's about instilling a mindset where every team member is on high alert for potential threats, ready to tackle them head-on. Investing in employee cyber security training is one of the smartest things you can do to ensure your organization’s resilience in the face of cyber attacks.