Cybercriminals use a variety of tactics all at once and are constantly innovating. Organizations need to do the same and take a multidimensional approach to cybersecurity because biannual training videos aren’t enough to engage employees or protect your business.
Is your cybersecurity strategy disengaging employees?
A bad actor stole $540 million from an NFT gaming company in July, an attack that started with a fake job offer on LinkedIn. In cases like these, social engineering doesn’t look like a fear-based phishing email demanding bank account information in a 24-hour turnaround. Instead, these attacks prey on people’s ambitions as they seek new opportunities.
Social engineering attacks can present as emails from (what appear to be) friends, asking you for credit card information, or they can be hyper-personal attacks in which fraudsters clone family members’ social media accounts and use personal photos and location information to convince you they’re real.
Social engineering attacks can be financially and emotionally devastating. But your organization isn’t defenseless — the best protection against them is to create a culture of digital literacy that scales with your organization.
Unfortunately, many cybersecurity training strategies don’t prepare employees for scenarios like these.
For example, cybersecurity training programs consisting of biannual training videos often promote content that’s uniform and limited in scope. These videos tend to deliver the same message every six months, with the same rotation of quiz questions.
While these programs are easy to implement, they’re usually dry, and the repetitive nature of the material demotivates employees, making it difficult for them to internalize or deploy training.
Expand your cybersecurity training
Cybercrime is evolving and your organization’s cybersecurity training strategy needs to evolve, too. It’s important to identify training opportunities that not only engage your employees, but better protect your business from social engineering and other attack strategies.
Here are five things to keep in mind as you expand your training strategy.
1. Starting is the hardest part — don’t let it stand in your way
The good news is that you don’t need to begin with a full rollout of new policies and strategies — take it one step at a time and build on your progress.
For example, one starting point could involve the distribution of a security reminder on the first Friday of the month, asking employees to update their devices. As this process becomes routine, add another step: a backup reminder at the end of the month.
Continue developing your cybersecurity strategy, adding new elements that address social engineering and other types of attacks. Before you know it, your organization’s digital literacy will improve as you establish a more robust and comprehensive training cycle.
2. Create clear and specific cybersecurity policies
When organizations draft their cybersecurity policies, they often apply a one-size-fits-all approach. But since your organization consists of a variety of teams and roles, a monolithic approach to cybersecurity policies probably won’t cover the security concerns associated with every role. For example, the cyber threats your finance department faces may differ from the ones faced by HR or the IT team — an HR employee is likely more susceptible to a phishing scam than an IT employee, so they need different training emphases.
Cybersecurity policies require a degree of customization for specific roles and departments. Start by asking questions like: What are the security needs of each department? And how is each department most susceptible to cybersecurity attacks?
3. Acknowledge and address (fear) fatigue
Cybersecurity works like insurance — you don’t see the reward because your actions are often proactive rather than reactive. Employees can get frustrated by a process that doesn’t demonstrate an immediate payoff, so it’s important to emphasize the value of ongoing training in preventing attacks before they occur.
Be careful not to give rise to fear fatigue, which occurs when employees are constantly exposed to bad news or messages that focus on negative outcomes. Cybersecurity training that only plays to fear, like constant alerts to threats, demotivates employees.
When providing training related to social engineering or other types of attacks, strike a balance between communicating the very real consequences of cyber-attacks and more positive messaging, like best practices and cyber hygiene routines.
4. Gamify your training
Gamification presents a significant opportunity for improving digital literacy, because it improves engagement. Instead of watching a video and taking a routine quiz, cybersecurity training happens on a competitive, point-earning platform where employees grow their skills alongside each other. Gamification ultimately makes learning fun, and the lessons are more likely to stick.
Just make sure that as you gamify cybersecurity training, you’re still strategizing. And keep context in mind — while it can be fun to create themed training exercises around celebrations like Halloween, an April Fool’s phishing scheme can come off as tacky or cruel.
5. Empower your employees
Your primary goal is to empower your employees through training and resources. When it comes to cybersecurity, one of the resources your organization should be fully utilizing is your IT team.
Your IT team is most knowledgeable about cybersecurity and cyber-attacks, and they’re best equipped to communicate best practices to your workforce. But communication is a two-way street — IT teams rely on employees to contact them when unusual phishing attacks or cybersecurity issues occur.
Employees are your first line of defense. It’s important to prioritize their role in cybersecurity and preventing breaches caused by social engineering or other types of attacks. The most effective cyber-attacks and social engineers use the full arsenal of tools at their disposal — and you need to do the same. Empower your workforce with diverse and ongoing training opportunities and implement cybersecurity practices that turn your teams into your best defense.
By Justine Fox