Employee Awareness Training: Strengthen Your Cybersecurity

By April 1, 2024Employee Training
employee awareness training

Cybercriminals are targeting companies from every direction, and if their efforts manage to breach your firewalls, malware filters, and threat detectors, your last line of defense may be the employee who receives the phishing email. Your team can either be your weakest link in the cybersecurity chain or your strongest. It all depends on the employee awareness training you provide. According to the 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), “74% of all breaches include the human element, with people being involved either via Error, Privilege Misuse, Use of stolen credentials or Social Engineering.”

Three quarters of data breaches happen because of an employee error.

Emotional Manipulation Is an Effective Tool for Cybercriminals

Why are employees the weakest link in some organizations?

Simply, human beings are subject to emotional manipulation.

If your company culture is such that your employees feel their jobs are at risk if they do something wrong, two things may happen:

  1. They can react in fear when they get an email message that appears to be from the leadership team, with messaging that implies that they’ve failed to pay an invoice or provide certain information; they then act out of fear, without giving considerable thought to the request.
  2. This same fear prevents employees from reporting their actions and revealing whether they’ve provided information to someone who might be a bad actor or have inadvertently clicked a potentially hazardous link or attachment.

Empowered Employees Are Able to Stop and Think

One of the ways to insulate your employees from the fear created by phishing emails or attempted cyberattacks is to give them permission to question virtually everything. Promoting a zero-trust culture and encouraging employees to stop and think rather than react will empower them to feel justified in double-checking when they receive an email from the CFO telling them they messed up and to quickly wire money to a vendor (this has happened).

Reward employees who slow down, think before acting, and question the legitimacy of a request. Make it easy for them to spot these types of dangerous requests by having policies in place that prevent such requests from even appearing legitimate. For example, if you have a policy in your company that only certain people can pay invoices, that invoices have to be paid in a certain way, and that wiring money cannot happen without multiple levels of approval, you can stop one of the most common phishing attempts. According to Verizon’s DBIR, “83% of breaches involved External actors, and the primary motivation for attacks continues to be overwhelmingly financially driven, at 95% of breaches.”

Provide Ongoing Employee Awareness Training

“To err is human.” – Alexander Pope

Your company may have superlative firewall protection, threat detection, and endpoint monitoring, but insisting on regular, comprehensive employee awareness training can be one of the best investments you can make. Humans are unpredictable – some work well under pressure and others crumble. But if you consistently remind them of the types of threats they’ll be faced with, remind them of the necessity of vigilance, require them to stay aware of new threats, and empower them to question the legitimacy of email requests, you can create a formidable line of defense for your organization.

Cybersecurity Awareness Training Is Part of a Comprehensive Security Posture

Cybersecurity awareness training is not intended to replace your technological defenses; it is meant to complement them. With proper training, employees can recognize threats when they happen, resist the emotional manipulation that often accompanies such threats, and feel comfortable reporting incidents without fear of reprisal. Prioritizing awareness training allows you to develop a culture within your organization in which every person takes responsibility for the security of the company.

Benefits of Employee Awareness Training

One of the more recent phishing attempts was an “MFA bombing” attack that prompted Apple device users to reset their passwords. Not only were users inundated with hundreds of password reset requests, but when they did the right thing – denying the requests and removing the notifications – they received a phone call from a number that was masked to look like Apple support. Another recent phishing attack, StrelaStealer, targeted more than 100 organizations with spam emails that had malware attachments.

Clearly, phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and they’re not just coming at you through your email. SMS and voicemail phishing are becoming more common, too. Making employee awareness training a part of your overall proactive cybersecurity strategy offers your organization many benefits.

Consistent employee awareness training helps keep your employees up to date on the latest threats and reminds them to proceed cautiously with every interaction.

Employee awareness training can also help teach your employees how to be better stewards with their own personal data, so that they do not have their credentials compromised. This is why employee awareness training needs to be provided not only to your frontline employees but to your C-suite as well.

Employee Awareness Training Success Relies on Your Company Culture

For some organizations, changing the company culture can be a significant effort. But achieving a culture of zero trust and proactive security can be a powerful defense approach, that, when combined with ongoing employee awareness training, can transform your company’s cybersecurity. This transformation will require buy-in from the top down, to create a culture where every employee takes ownership of the company’s security.

Employee awareness training should be prioritized in every organization. Small and large businesses alike – in virtually every industry, including healthcare facilities and government agencies – are being targeted, and your own employees are your strongest line of defense.

Ideal Integrations and thinkCSC are committed to helping organizations improve cybersecurity and compliance. If you have been the victim of spoofed emails or would like to learn how to protect your organization from email security attacks, contact us for more information.