Importance of Employee Education for Cybersecurity (Guest Contribution from Keith Coppersmith)

The following post comes to us from Keith Coppersmith, an experienced business consultant who serves small businesses and startups. Learn more about Keith in his bio following this article.


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The average global cost of a data breach in the last five years has increased to$3.92 million, and the numbers keep climbing. It is important to note that data breaches are not an exception. Instead, they occur regularly, but they get little coverage in the media.

If you want your defense strategy to be as bulletproof as possible, do not ignore the human resources when improving security infrastructure.

Since people are easier to compromise and exploit than software, they are the primary targets for cybercriminals. So, keep your staff educated and updated on the latest cyber threats to avoid your company from falling prey to cyber-attacks.

Security awareness training – why is it important?

Today, the majority of cyber-attacks rely on human error. Hackers can spoof email addresses and domains, fake corporate images and logos, and create an effective scheme to compromise your staff’s accounts. 

Even if you run a small business, you should work on your cyber safety practices, as two-thirds of SMBs have been victims of a cyber attack in the last 12 months. With this sobering statistic, it is more important than ever to conduct cybersecurity awareness training with your employees. 

Educating your employees on how to protect themselves, especially from social engineering aimed at people’s need to help others, can prevent cybercriminals from working their way into your network.

According to some experts, training reduces the risk of falling prey to phishing scams by 20 percent. When your staff is sensitized and alert, they will be more attentive and skeptical of suspicious emails and potential security breaches. 

Invest in continuous employee training 

The reality is that most of the digital attacks try to exploit the human factor by devising luring and creative phishing attempts. Continuous employee education on cybersecurity is necessary since the employees are the most common entry points for cybercriminals, and human errors cause almost 90 percent of the data breaches. 

Regular and updated cybersecurity training will teach your staff to recognize and alleviate cyber threats and keep up with evolving cyber threats. Make sure that cybersecurity training is mandatory for all your employees from day one.

Cyber security certification programs are designed to prepare your staff to carry out security measures and protect the organization’s network from any security breaches. With empowered workers able to identify and prevent security breaches, your organization’s most vulnerable link will be strengthened.

Start with password security training

Make sure your staff understands that the passwords are the first line of defense against cyber-attacks. To protect sensitive and valuable information, educate your team on how to set a strong password. 

There are several key traits your employees need to remember: a strong password has to be long enough, to include letters, symbols, and numbers, and to be changed regularly. It is best if there are no complete words incorporated in the passwords, as they are more easily compromised. 

Password managers like LastPass can generate and remember robust passwords for accounts your employees use. This online tool also allows your team members to share passwords, minimizing the risk of exposure.

Fake emails target your employees 

According to the FBI, cyber financial frauds are on the rise globally. Typically, phishing emails target company decision-makers or individuals with access to company finances. And phishing attacks are responsible for more than 90 percent of malicious security breaches.

Organized crime groups target both large and small companies and organizations worldwide, from well-known corporations to non-profit ones, churches, and schools. And they are becoming more and more sophisticated in their attacks. 

For instance, hackers use real brand logos and images in phishing emails, and the email itself can appear to be from a legitimate business, vendor, or associate. 

Training your employees to recognize fake emails mitigates the risk of providing attackers with sensitive information. 

Implement practice attacks

Conduct simulated attacks to test your organization’s vulnerabilities. This will give your team a chance to build cybersecurity habits and learn from their mistakes – safely. And when you understand where improvements are needed to be made, it is easier to plan future training sessions.

After the drill, gather your employees, review what they did right, what went wrong and prepare for the potential attack better. Regular training, along with random simulated attacks, will reinforce your staff’s learning efforts.

Cybersecurity companies offer security attack simulators to help employees cope better with the actual attacks and various phishing strategies. 

Establish handling and reporting suspicious emails protocol

Finally, make sure your employees know what to do when they suspect there is foul play. There should be a system in place on how (and who to) to report the attacks. It is best to issue a clear set of guidelines for handling suspicious emails. 

Although there is no 100 percent protection against cyber-attacks, educating your employees regularly, and evaluating your company’s vulnerabilities is an effective way to limit your data breaches.

rsz_keithkAbout the Author: Keith Coppersmith is an Adelaide based business consultant with a degree in Media Management. With experience in numerous small businesses and startups, he enjoys giving advice on all things marketing.

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