If you keep up to date with our blog, you’ve likely heard us extolling the benefits of cyber security awareness training for staff on multiple occasions. That’s because the importance of this type of employee education as a viable method of cybersecurity protection cannot — and should not — be understated

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There is a dangerous tendency among businesses to disregard staff training as a ‘nice-to-have’ or an optional extra alongside the more traditional set of cyber security services offered by managed service providers. 

However, when you consider that 95% of cybersecurity issues can be traced straight back to human error, training becomes an essential method of protection for businesses.  

But, what does cyber security awareness training actually involve?

What is cyber security awareness training? 

This essential form of staff education refers to any structured education programme that aims to provide employees with the skills and knowledge needed to protect the business they work for against cyber security threats. The core goal of this type of training is that staff are well equipped to not only identify but quickly prevent and respond to cyber attacks effectively. 

Covering everything from basic password best practices to recognising even the most sophisticated social engineering tactics, cyber security training seeks to give staff both confidence and competence enough to either avoid or correctly handle any cyber security issues an organisation may face. 

It is important to note that cyber security awareness training is a specific part of wider IT training, a topic which we have discussed at length in another of our blogs here. As such, educating your staff on cybersecurity best practices could fall conveniently into a wider IT skills training day or session. 


What does cyber security awareness training involve?

Delivering cyber security training to staff takes no one set form across the board. That is, there’s no standardised approach. In fact, it is often better for cyber security to be tailored to an organisation based the following factors:

  • The number of employees or size of the organisation 
  • The sector the business is in
  • The type of systems and programs the organisation uses
  • Working environment and habits (from home, hybrid, in the office)
  • The specific business needs 
  • Budget
  • The current abilities of the staff 
  • Whether any recent previous training can be used as a launching off point

That being said, despite the variations that come with organisation, size, budget, and industry, there are a series of fundamentals that all good cyber security awareness training courses should offer. These include:

Password security practices 

Every solid cyber security training programme should cover the best practices for making and maintaining strong passwords. 

Staff should be introduced to the common pitfalls when it comes to ‘weak’ passwords — such as the most compromised examples or the bad habits to avoid. As an example, 51% of people use the same password for work and personal accounts and 69% of employees share passwords with co-workers to access information.

Staff should be well-acquainted with what a strong password looks like, recalling some of the main features. As Microsoft’s official guidance states, a strong password is one that:

  • Contains at least 12 characters. 
  • Is made up of a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Is unique and not used for any other accounts.
  • Isn’t a word that can be found in a dictionary or the name of a person, character, product, or organisation.
  • Easy to remember but difficult for others to guess.
  • Consider using a memorable phrase like "10CowsRLooking^".

Staff should also gain an awareness of the importance and functionality of password managers and the benefits of multi-factor authentication (MFA) as an additional layer of security when it comes to passwords. 

GDPR & safe data handling 

A huge part of all IT training revolves around GDPR and remaining compliant with the numerous rules and regulations surrounding it. Although it can sound dry, a failure to comply with GDPR legislation has the potential to land businesses in really hot water as well as leaving them vulnerable to the advances of cybercriminals. 

This part of cyber security awareness training usually introduces the laws around data handling, explores the varying levels of data classification (‘Top Secret’, ‘Secret’, ‘Confidential’, ‘Sensitive’, and ‘Unclassified’), the correct methods for disposing of sensitive data, and how to maintain compliance. 

Phishing vigilance 

Phishing is a simple - but effective - way for hackers to gain access to information they shouldn’t have. 

Cyber security training should educate staff on the core phishing methods (fake emails, spam, fraudulent text messages, virus-infected pop ups, and so on) as well as the various phishing types (‘Spear Phishing’, ‘Whaling’, ‘Smishing’) asserting the importance of staying alert and reporting anything that looks suspicious. 

This should give employees the confidence to verify email senders, avoid suspicious links, and escalate any potential phishing incidents to the IT team. 

Guidance on safe browsing habits 

As a subsection of phishing, there is usually training on safer browsinghabits to help staff better protect themselves against the dangers associated with web browsing. Usually, this section functions as a reminder to keep software and web browsers up to date, to understand the risks associated with downloading files, to only connect to secure networks, and to think twice before sharing private information on what is a public network. 


Social engineering awareness 

Hand in hand with phishing comes a knowledge of social engineering. This part of cyber security training is particularly useful for those who work hybridly or in the office full time. Again, the core elements of this form of cybersecurity threat should be made clear (impersonation, tailgating, pretexting, baiting, etc) with the view to sharpening staff senses to any attempts made by cybercriminals to gain access to unauthorised information. 

Education about malware 

Cybersecurity training courses will also educate staff about malware — that is, malicious software purposefully designed to infiltrate computer systems and cause harm (EG: File corruption or, worse, data loss).

The different levels (malware, viruses, ransomware, and spyware) should be profiled, alongside guidance on how to make sure your file-sharing habits are safe. This element also asserts the importance of installing and updating reputable antivirus software. 

Protect your systems with ITRM

Now we’ve covered what an effective cyber security awareness training programme should include, how much did you know?

If you’re looking for IT support or specific IT security services, get in touch with the team here at ITRM to discuss how we can best help your business stay secure.

And, in the meantime, for more strategic digital business insights, be sure to keep up with our blog.  

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