Information Security Training: Why & How

Empowering Your Workforce to Safeguard Your Organization’s Digital Assets

Introduction

In today’s regulatory, litigious and online world, information security is a top priority for businesses of all sizes. With the increased reliance on technology and remote work, the potential for cyber threats is higher than ever. It is critical for organizations to invest in information security training for their end users to protect their digital assets and prevent costly breaches. Here we are discussing the benefits of information security training, best practices for effective training, modes of delivery, and suggested topics for your users.

Benefits of Information Security Training

  • Reduced Risk of Data Breaches
    By providing end users with information security training, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches. Employees become aware of potential threats, such as phishing emails and social engineering attacks, and are more likely to correctly identify and report these incidents before any harm is done.
Information Security Training - HELP written out in alphabet soup on a spoon
  • Compliance with Regulations and Industry Standards
    Many industries, such as healthcare and finance, have strict regulations in place to protect sensitive data. Ensuring your employees are well-versed in these requirements, such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS and GDPR, or other examples of today’s regulatory alphabet soup helps your organization maintain compliance and avoid costly fines.
  • Improved Employee Confidence
    When employees are well-trained in information security, they gain confidence in their ability to protect sensitive data. This leads to a more proactive approach to security, with employees taking responsibility for safeguarding information and promptly reporting any suspicious activity.
  • Enhanced Company Reputation
    A company with a strong focus on information security is seen as more trustworthy and reliable by customers and partners. By investing in end-user training, you demonstrate your commitment to protecting valuable data and maintaining a secure environment.

Best Practices for Information Security Training

  • Regular Training Sessions
    To ensure the effectiveness of the training, it is essential to conduct regular training sessions. The best way to execute a training program is not to have a single, long training session. Rather it is best to have multiple smaller sessions throughout the year, building on the knowledge and topics from prior sessions. I personally recommend that there be quarterly training sessions on different topics. These quarterly sessions should be no longer than 15-20 minutes so that the user does not ‘check out’ and skip through the training exercise. This will help the trainee retain the information and put it to use.
  • Engaging and Interactive Content
    To keep employees engaged and retain the information, use a variety of interactive training methods, such as gamification, simulations, and role-playing exercises. Posters, ‘swag’ (mousepads, coffee mugs, etc.) also help to keep the topic in front of users and keep the ideas of protecting information top of mind.
  • Real-World Examples and Case Studies
    Incorporate real-world examples and case studies to illustrate the potential consequences of security breaches. This helps employees understand the importance of adhering to security policies and procedures. Take examples from the news. Did a large breach happen recently? Use that to illustrate how these impacted the other organization, what failed, and how the user can help to prevent such. Empower your users.
  • Assessment and Feedback
    Regularly assess employee understanding through quizzes, questionnaires, or practical exercises. Provide feedback on their performance to identify areas for improvement and ensure they have a solid grasp of the material. This should not be seen as a way of penalizing the users for failure, rather, if the users are failing – it is the Information Security Training program that is failing. Adjust accordingly.

Modes of Delivery for Information Security Training

  • Instructor-Led Training (ILT)
    ILT involves an expert trainer leading a group of employees through the training material. This approach allows for real-time interaction, immediate feedback, and personalized instruction. The downside is that it is expensive, unwieldy and less accessible for a mobile workforce. This could work well for an onboarding workshop though.
  • Online Training (eLearning)
    eLearning offers flexibility and convenience for employees to complete training at their own pace. Online courses often include interactive elements, such as videos and quizzes, to engage learners.
  • Blended Learning
    Blended learning combines the best of both ILT and eLearning, providing a more comprehensive learning experience. Employees can access online resources and participate in instructor-led sessions for reinforcement and additional guidance.

Suggested Topics and Content for Information Security Training

It is important to know the audience. Providing security training to a cashier needs to be entirely different than that you provide to the CEO or to someone in Finance. Creating role specific training using some of these suggestions is vital to a successful Information Security Training program.

  • Fundamentals of Information Security
    Ensure employees understand the basics of information security, including the CIA triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability), various types of threats, and the importance of maintaining a secure environment.
  • Password Management
    Teach employees the best practices for creating strong passwords, using password managers, and the dangers of password reuse. Emphasize the importance of changing passwords regularly and not sharing them with others, as well as any specific company policies on password management.
  • Email and Phishing Awareness
    Educate employees on how to recognize phishing emails, texts or online messengers and the appropriate actions to take when they encounter suspicious messages. Also, cover proper email etiquette and secure communication practices. These can be followed up with phishing simulators where the company sends emails that look, feel and act as real world phishing attacks. This will help reinforce the skills learned as well as provide feedback on how the program is functioning.
  • Social Engineering
    Discuss social engineering tactics, such as pretexting and baiting, and how employees can protect themselves from these types of attacks.
  • Mobile Device & Remote Work Security
    With the widespread use of smartphones and tablets, it is crucial to cover mobile device security. Train employees on how to secure their devices, recognize potential threats, and follow company policies regarding mobile device usage. Additionally, post COVID, we still have many organizations heavily reliant on remote workforces. Specific training on how to ensure their home offices and personal technologies used for remote working are properly secured.
  • Safe Internet Browsing
    Educate employees on safe browsing habits, such as avoiding suspicious websites, using secure connections, and keeping software up-to-date.
  • Data Protection and Privacy
    Explain the importance of data protection and privacy, including relevant regulations and industry standards. Train employees on proper data handling procedures and the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Incident Reporting and Response
    Ensure employees understand the proper channels for reporting potential security incidents and their role in the organization’s incident response plan.

Conclusion

Investing in information security training for corporate end users is crucial in today’s digital landscape. By empowering your workforce with the knowledge and skills to protect your organization’s digital assets, you reduce the risk of data breaches, maintain compliance with industry regulations, and enhance your company’s reputation. Implementing engaging and interactive training sessions that cover essential topics, such as password management, phishing awareness, and mobile device security, will ensure your employees are well-equipped to safeguard your organization from cyber threats.

These are just some suggestions, and there are third parties available to help craft, host and even execute your training plan. Not all organizations have the luxury of an internal Learning and Development team, nor quality security professionals to help design this type of a program. Using third parties to deliver Information Security Training is often the best choice.

John P. Hoke

John P. Hoke headshot

Cyber Security Professional, Photographer, Coffee Junkie, Mac Addict, Craft Beer & Whiskey connoisseur, all around curmudgeon and generally sarcastic SOB – Not necessarily in that order.

The opinions expressed on this blog are mine alone and not those of my employer, family, pets, the voices in my head, or anyone else for that matter … hell in an hour they may not be mine either πŸ™‚

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