Essential elements of a security awareness training program

Essential elements of a security awareness training program

If you’re asked the biggest cause of data breaches, you’d be half-right if you answer hackers. The other half of the blame often goes to your staff, because they’re the ones with passwords that are easy to crack and who are unfamiliar with sophisticated infiltration techniques such as phishing.

To prevent your staff from being taken advantage of, you need to increase their awareness of looming cyberthreats via a training program. Here’s what such a program needs to transform your employees into effective cybersecurity defenders.


As with any skill, continual learning is the key to mastery.


Begin with an all-hands-on-deck seminar that teaches staff about the latest threats floating around cyberspace, how to recognize and avoid them, and how to respond to attackers once they’ve successfully breached your defenses.


To make data breach prevention stay at the top of people’s minds, follow up your annual training seminar with a monthly cybersecurity newsletter. Share the latest and gravest news about data breaches, and also provide one or two helpful cybersecurity tips, such as how to better recognize malicious emails.

Practice, practice, practice

Test the mettle of your staff by hiring ethical hackers or using phishing simulators to send fake scams their way. This will reveal if their new skills are holding fast or if they’ll need refresher courses.

Related article: 6 Practical ways to keep cyberattackers at bay

Highly regulated industries such as healthcare require vigilance beyond the digital realm. That is, staff must know to keep computer screens away from passersby and waiting patients, lock filing cabinets, and not leave paper records lying around, among many other data protocols of the Personal Health Information Protection Act. Impromptu on-site inspections can reveal how well your employees are handling sensitive data, as well as pinpoint areas for improvement.

Involved leadership

Even the C-suite can fall victim to email scams and other malicious exploits. In fact, the practice of victimizing them has become known as whaling or whale phishing — and successful whaling attacks usually mean greater sums of money lost due to their access to large amounts of it.

Therefore, not only must leaders wholly support the implementation of a security awareness training program, but they must also participate in it. Data security must be an organization-wide concern, which means that nobody can be exempt from upholding it.

Third-party expertise and oversight

If your business is not related to cybersecurity, it is best to leave security awareness training programs to experts. Don’t overextend your IT team by making them implement a program that 1) will require skills that are not in their wheelhouse, and 2) will take time and effort away from projects that they actually know how to do.

Besides, letting insiders do self-assessments increases the risk of painting a false picture of security. Having outsiders do the training means you’ll get the most objective view of your organization, free of bias and fear of job loss.

Furthermore, cybersecurity experts know what needs to be done, such as proper risk assessments and comprehensive regulatory compliance checks, among others. Their security awareness training program will just be one piece of their comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

Protect your organization from the inside by implementing a security awareness training program. Contact our experts at XBASE Technologies to learn how our Exponentially Better™ cybersecurity services can prevent data breaches and minimize their impact.

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