Information Security Awareness and Training

Information Security Awareness and Training

So at my new job, they wanted me to start writing articles for our newsletter to educate our users about topics within information security, and since I wanted to write a blog post on the same this year anyway I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  Here we go…

Before I begin to explain how information security awareness and training affects you in your daily work and personal life, I would like to explain the concepts. There are two main parts of this topic and they are directly in the name: information security awareness and information security training.

I will start with information security training because this is what most people are familiar with and have completed before. The concept of information security training is simply providing education to users on the information security policies, procedures, standards, and guidelines that they must follow in their daily work activities. This can be provided to users in many different ways, but the most commonly used practice today is through an online learning environment. The users are typically provided information on a certain topic, answer a question or two after that topic, and if they pass, they are directed to the next topic. In most cases information security training is required of each user on an annual basis due to certain regulations. The problem with information security training as a whole is the fact that the training becomes stagnant and since the training only occurs once a year, most users do not retain or use the information over the course of that year.

This is where information security awareness comes into play and assists the information security training. The goal of information security awareness is to continually influence users to think about information security in their daily work activities and even in their personal lives. Information security awareness has no structure to it such as the training, but the person in charge of information security (usually the Information Security Officer) at an organization decides how to best implement this awareness throughout the organization. An awareness program can include such activities as brown bag lunches, hanging information security posters around the building(s), talking at department meetings, newsletter articles, periodic emails to all staff, or information security-centric activities during Cyber Security month (which is October if you did not know).

So, at this point, you might be asking how this actually affects you? Well, I am glad that you brought that up. Surprisingly, you might know more about information security than you thought. Due to the media covering such information security incidents as data breaches caused by hacking attacks (Anthem, Target, Home Depot, etc.); system vulnerabilities/bugs (Heartbleed, Poodle, Shellshock, etc.); hacktivists (Anonymous, etc.); and state-sponsored hacking groups (China, North Korea, Russia, etc.), many people are already aware of information security concerns. For instance, most people know that banks and credit card companies are now issuing debit/credit cards with chips in them for extra security.

Sure, I can say that information security awareness and training affect you because you must take information security training once a year in order for the organization to be compliant with our information security standards/regulations, but most people would not actually try to learn anything from the training and use it in their daily lives. How I want you to think about information security awareness and training is to put yourself in the shoes of the people that you consider your customers and from that perspective think about how you would like your confidential information handled if someone else was handling it. You can also think about it from your personal life, such as, you expect your bank to protect your account information, the hospitals to protect your health information, and the postal workers to not go through your mail.

So the next time you take information security training or see an information security poster in your building, do not just ignore it, because it is not just there for the fun of it, but to actually help you understand what it takes to be secure in your daily work and personal lives.

Security Awareness Training Is Needed Now More Than Ever!

Security awareness training for employees is of paramount importance in today's digital age where cyber threats and data breaches are on the rise. Our biggest threat and easiest targets for malicious actors are HUMANS! Here are key reasons why it is crucial:

  • Mitigating Human Error: Most security breaches occur due to human error, such as clicking on phishing emails or using weak passwords. Security awareness training educates employees about the risks and helps them make better decisions to avoid these errors.
  • Phishing Prevention: Phishing attacks are a common method used by cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to systems and data. Security awareness training helps employees recognize phishing attempts and empowers them to report suspicious emails or links.
  • Data Protection: Employees are custodians of sensitive company data. Training ensures they understand the importance of protecting this data and the consequences of data breaches, including legal and financial repercussions.
  • Compliance: Industries have strict regulatory requirements on data security and privacy, such as GDPR or POPIA. Security awareness training helps employees understand and follow these regulations, reducing the risk of non-compliance penalties.
  • Reducing Insider Threats: Insider threats, where employees intentionally or unintentionally harm their organization's security, are a significant concern. Security training can help identify potential insider threats and prevent them through awareness and early intervention.
  • Cybersecurity Best Practices: Training provides employees with practical knowledge about cybersecurity best practices, such as using strong passwords, updating software regularly, and securely managing sensitive information.
  • Crisis Preparedness: In the event of a cybersecurity incident, employees who have received security awareness training are better prepared to respond effectively, minimizing the damage and recovery time.
  • Protecting Personal Information: Cybersecurity is not limited to the workplace. Training helps employees safeguard their personal information and reduce the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks in their personal lives.
  • Creating a Security Culture: Promoting security awareness creates a culture of cybersecurity within the organization. When security becomes a part of the organizational culture, employees are more likely to take it seriously and apply it in their daily work.
  • Cost Savings: While there is an initial investment in security awareness training, it can ultimately save an organization money by reducing the likelihood of costly data breaches, legal fees, and reputation damage.

In conclusion, security awareness training for employees is an essential measure for protecting an organization's data, reputation, and overall security posture. It empowers employees to be the first line of defence against cyber threats and fosters a culture of security awareness throughout the organization.

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