The five best practices in developing an effective employee security awareness program

Protecting your business from cyberthreats takes more than implementing the latest cybersecurity technology; it also entails educating your staff about their roles in keeping your organization safe from scams, data breaches, malware, and other risks. In fact, IBM and the Ponemon Institute cite human error as the cause of 23% of data breaches in 2020 — that’s almost one in four incidents. And with easily exploitable remote work setups expected to remain in the foreseeable future, it’s even more critical to pay attention to the human component of cybersecurity.

What is a security awareness program?

It is a formal, continuous process of improving cybersecurity posture by increasing employee awareness about cyberthreats, thus helping them avoid situations that might put the organization’s data at risk. A security awareness program aims to equip staff with better cybersecurity habits, as well as the know-how of dealing with various threats. It also aims to cultivate a security culture in a company.


How can you develop an effective security awareness program?

The effectiveness of a security awareness program depends on many factors. We’ve listed down some of the best practices that will help your program become a success:


1. Understand your starting point

The best security awareness programs are those that were designed according to a company’s specific needs. To ensure that your training program will address the security gaps in your processes, you must first determine the weaknesses of your existing security awareness program. 


Resources like the SANS Security Awareness Maturity Model can help you determine the maturity (or immaturity) level of your program and what you can do to improve it. A business IT specialist like NetWize can also provide tailored IT services and solutions that will cater to your tech needs as you implement your security awareness program.


2. Start from the top down

Make sure that your security awareness strategy is approved by the top-level management: buy-in from the people who have a lot of influence and power can result in a smooth-sailing, adequately funded program. The participation of executives also sends out a strong message that data protection is everyone’s responsibility and that no one is exempt from undergoing cybersecurity training. 


3. Set clear goals but allow flexibility

It’s critical to have timelines for achieving cybersecurity milestones, but it’s also important to have some level of flexibility that will allow you to adjust your targets should initial approaches fail to produce desired results. 


The key is to break down your big goals into small, attainable goals that can easily be tweaked. Regularly evaluate them so you can see how employee performance is faring against the standards, and fine-tune future goals and processes based on new information. For instance, if your staff took longer than expected to master your company’s password management app, then you can either modify the timeline to account for this delay or try a different, possibly more effective training approach.


4. Gamify the training

At the heart of gamification is a reward system that positively reinforces learning and drives active engagement. By giving your employees a chance at gaining recognition, physical prizes, or badges or points that can be exchanged for gifts, you can motivate them to take the training more seriously.


Gamification can be as simple as giving equivalent reward points for practicing good cybersecurity habits, such as enabling multifactor authentication or not using the same password for any two accounts. You can even publish an internal tally board showing the names of the employees with the most points, further fostering friendly competition.


5. Measure your efforts

To tell if your security awareness program is working, you must measure your progress against different metrics like deployment and impact. Measuring deployment success includes calculating what percentage of the workforce has taken the training, which materials have they used, and other metrics that auditors use to assess compliance. Meanwhile, measuring impact entails evaluating behavior change, such as determining how many employees who did not know what phishing scams were at the start of the program can now spot one. These measurable metrics will enable you to assess whether your investments are paying off.


Every modern business is exposed to thousands of cybersecurity risks. Protect your organization by implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that encompasses people, processes, and technology. NetWize can help you get there. We offer complete technology solutions that will enable you to prevent attacks and reduce risks over time. Drop us a line today.

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