How to Create a Cybersecurity Training Program for Employees

May 21, 2019

Neglecting cybersecurity training for employees can cost businesses millions of dollars. Follow these steps to create your own cybersecurity training materials.

Gitanjali MariaSr. Content Analyst

Companies aren’t preparing their employees for threats caused by poor cybersecurity. According to a survey, 33% of employees received no training in cybersecurity practices, while 16% of respondents received little training.

The lack of cybersecurity training for employees is directly evidenced by the spike in cybersecurity incidents. Of an average 3,269 security incidents reported in 2018, careless employees or contractors were the root cause of 2,081.

Small businesses lack the well-oiled HR machinery that their larger peers have and are more likely to neglect employee cybersecurity training. Neglecting cybersecurity training increases their risk to insider attacks, which can cost them on an average $1.8 million a year.

In this article, we’ll help you with steps to build a cybersecurity plan for employees. We’ll also provide you with resources that you can use straight away to train and measure your employees’ cybersecurity knowledge.

4 steps for preparing a cybersecurity training

Creating a cybersecurity training program for employees needs to be carefully thought out and planned. It should address the present security concerns and make employees alert and cautious so they can detect threats and prevent security incidents.

1. Define the preliminary scope of the program

You must decide on the scope of the cybersecurity training programs. The scope of the training will be based on your number of employees, their cybersecurity awareness level, available budget, and time frames.

You can also design your cybersecurity training program to consist of two or more levels. The levels you could think of adding include:

  • Preliminary (or basic) level: The basic cybersecurity program is for employees who use IT systems daily but have limited knowledge or experience. This can include your sales representatives, HR executives, operators, and marketing executives. The scope of their training would mainly cover basic cybersecurity practices, such as password rotation and regular patches.

  • Managerial level: Managerial level security training is designed to help executives who lead teams address employee questions and concerns. Managers should also be able to work with your IT team to address any issues, and they might also serve on your IT security leadership panels.

  • Training for IT staff: Your IT staff needs a deep dive into cybersecurity training. They should learn threat detection and mitigation techniques. They should also be trained on how to use security tools such as penetration testing; network mapping and monitoring solutions ; and vulnerability scanners .

2. Engage key stakeholders and build a core team

Getting the support and approval of the leadership team is important for the success of cybersecurity training programs. It also validates its need and importance.

Getting the support of various business unit leaders for cybersecurity training will make it easier to get approval for budgets, as well as earmark employee time and resources. You can also build a core team to support your cybersecurity training initiatives.

The core team should include representatives from all your business lines: HR, IT, operations, sales, and marketing. Include inputs from the core team members on what areas need more focus in your cybersecurity training plan, keeping your business needs and interests in mind.

3. Plan a workable program with definable and measurable goals

Once you define what aspects you want to cover in your cybersecurity training programs, you’ll then need to prepare the materials, decide on the time frame, and fix training metrics that you would like to monitor for success.

To prepare an effective training resource, you may first want to identify the security challenges (threats) facing your organization. You must also identify common social engineering threats that your employees face and address them in the training materials.

You can prepare the training materials in different formats, including videos, presentations, daily tips, quizzes, posters, and podcasts. The aim should be to keep the training materials both informative and engaging. They should also be easily accessible.

You should pull in security experts and professionals from within your organization to put together the training materials. Additionally, you can use third-party security training providers to conduct classes or workshops. Make sure to teach your employees basic threat and fraud detection mechanisms to lower the rate of security incidents.

Along with your training materials, you also need to identify security solutions used within your organization that can help employees improve their security hygiene.

Some of the security apps you may already be using or want to consider include:

  • Anti-virus solutions : Anti-virus solutions scan your systems, files, and downloaded items for any malicious programs such as viruses or Trojans. Train your employees to update the antivirus regularly and to run periodic scans of the systems.

  • Password manager : Compromised passwords are a major cause of data breaches. A password manager tool can help employees keep organize, store, and access passwords for different applications.

  • Multi-factor authentication : Multi-factor authentication helps restrict unauthorized access to accounts and data. Advise your employees to always use multi-factor authentication, wherever available, to secure their accounts.

  • Virtual private network (VPN) : A VPN protects the data shared across the internet by your employees by creating a virtual private network across a public network. Make sure that your employees keep the VPN switched on.

Other things you must consider include the cost of the training resources, internal staff time required for materials preparation, and staff commitment. To conduct the sessions, seek assistance from individual teams as well as from human resources to set up the sessions.

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4.Implement, measure, and optimize

Your cybersecurity training materials and programs should be consistent and must align with your defined goals, and make sure to implement the cybersecurity training programs in a phased manner.

You can start with the basics and then move on to advanced topics as employees seek more security information. Ensure that you implement the training in an engaging, rather than boring, manner.

You can conduct quiz or poster competitions, reward employees who show good security hygiene, designate security champions, and organize hackathons or red team-blue team exercises. You can also send monthly or quarterly cybersecurity newsletters covering trends and market developments, as well as roll out daily or weekly email tips.

Measure how successful your cybersecurity training has been by using metrics such as percent lower security incident reported, simulated phishing email click-through rates, and general employee behavior toward security aspects such as password management, data privacy, and identity protection.

Seek feedback from employees as well as other key business stakeholders to optimize your training program. You should also update the training materials at least on an annual basis to take stock of the changing cybersecurity world.

Cybersecurity training is as important as other operational training

Do not underestimate the importance or relevance of cybersecurity training. Your employees can be valuable in identifying and preventing security risks only if you equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills.

Start now, putting together and implementing cybersecurity training for all employees at your business.

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About the author

Gitanjali Maria

Sr. Content Analyst
Hey there, I’m Gitanjali Maria. I’m a senior content analyst at GetApp. I bring you insights about CRM, sales, customer experience, and data security. I’m an MBA from Loyola College, India, and experienced in tech research. Home base: Gurugram, India. (1-2) things about me: Enjoy reading all genres and making junk art. The [1-2] tech trend[s]/innovation[s] I think you should keep an eye on: Watch out for all the things AI can revolutionize!
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