Why It Pays To Invest in Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Employees

Posted by Living Security Team
November 03, 2021

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CISOs and security awareness program owners understand the value of educating employees about cyber threats. But it can be difficult to earn buy-in from the C-suite to fund and support proper training.

Selling the value of your cybersecurity awareness program can be one of your greatest challenges, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can forecast the potential impact of your program, you’ll get the company-wide approval and resources you need to implement it. 

Whether you’re starting a cybersecurity program from the ground up or giving your current initiative a well-needed update, there are many reasons it pays to invest in better awareness training. 

 

1. Human Error Is One of the Fastest-Growing Causes of Breaches

When selling your program to executives for buy-in, start with the facts. More than 80% of breaches are caused by human error, such as misdelivery and data loss. While the C-suite may see the value of investing in strong physical security barriers like firewalls and multi-factor authentication, these safeguards are designed to protect us from technical cyber attacks. Threat actors today are leaving these attack vectors behind and targeting the people behind the technology because social engineering is often easier to execute and more successful than brute force attacks. 

But before you incite a panic about saboteurs lurking behind every email, remind execs that, with the right coaching and security awareness training, your team can be intelligent protectors of your company’s security. This is the position you want to sell to execs: that training equals power, like building your own human firewall.

 

2. Infrequent, Inconsistent Awareness Training Doesn’t Foster Retention

Sometimes we convince execs to give cybersecurity training a try, but there’s a catch: they treat it like a one-and-done investment. They give you a few months or one year to educate employees. You run your team through an intense training program to pack in as much value as possible, knowing that the program has an expiration date. As a result, employees feel overwhelmed by completing training on top of their usual day-to-day work and fail to complete all of the modules. Or worse—they do, but they rush through the lessons and don’t retain the knowledge, giving you a false sense of security. 

The problem is, cybersecurity awareness training is not effective as a one-time assignment. Cyber threats are ever-evolving and employees need to be made aware of them as they arise. Plus, learning something one time without reinforcement or real-life application does not lead to high retention rates. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to establish a habit, with the average being 66 days. Help your team build smarter security habits by providing them with consistent, updated training year after year.

 

3. When Framed Correctly, the Training Matters Tremendously to the C-Suite

If the C-suite is struggling to see your awareness program’s value, it may have something to do with the way you’re explaining the training’s benefits. Many CISOs and program owners report on the metrics that matter most to themselves, like phishing open rates and compliance adherence, but this data doesn’t hold the same weight with execs. 

Instead, company heads care about the ROI and metrics concerning risk, business enablement, behavioral change, etc.—anything that affects operations. To get everyone on the same page, you need to show how things like pen tests and compliance stats can be tied to foundational business growth indicators.  

 

4. The Risk of Not Training Employees Outweighs the Investment in the Training Itself

When talking with the C-suite about the metrics that matter to them, you may want to address the true cost of not investing in cybersecurity awareness training. What if you were breached and were taken to court? Can you estimate what a legal battle could cost your organization? What about assigning metrics to the harder-to-measure repercussions, like your reputational loss from the negative PR? 

While calculating the implications of not educating your employees on cyber threats, be sure not to dwell too deeply on the negative. While you don’t want to ignore the possible risks, you also don’t want to create a culture of fear around cybersecurity. Instead, emphasize how training can lead to long-term behavioral change.

 

5. Training Creates a Culture of Security

When proposing your cybersecurity program to the C-suite, you’ll want to emphasize that your program will pay for itself time and time again by creating a team of security advocates within your organizational culture. With the right enablement, your team will help to maintain a safer environment at work and even at home. 

Instead of feeling responsible for vulnerabilities, your team will feel empowered to defend your security—knowing they play an important role in maintaining it. Flip the fear-based script and strengthen, encourage, and motivate your team by implementing human risk management into your program today. 

 

Foster Success With These Program Owner Resources

Ready to start a cybersecurity awareness program or advance the one you have? Here are some tips for developing a program or making a significant change to an initiative already in place.

As you know, creating and maintaining an awareness program can be a lot of work. Let us help you make it easier with Campaign in a Box. By subscribing to a year of program owner-specific resources, you can rest easy knowing you’ll have relevant security awareness content to share with your team every week! Request more information on our boxes to learn more.

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