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April 2, 2020
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5 min. read

The Essential Guide to Security Engagement

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Barbara Babati
Marketing Manager
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You may have heard the term “security engagement” and wondered what it meant. While it’s not yet a buzzword in cybersecurity, it’s becoming one of the most important parts of security training of the future. Security engagement could be the difference between getting caught up in a cyber-attack or mitigating it just in time—we’ll elaborate on that later.

What Is Security Engagement?

Security engagement is a form of security training that focuses on constantly engaging employees so that they learn to identify threats through simulating real-life attack types. Using frequent simulations will teach users to report actual threats so that the security teams can have valuable information and visibility into risks and so that they can plan incident response and mitigation more adequately.

Why Do Businesses Need Security Engagement?

Why do businesses need security engagement training? It’s essential to realize that attackers are not typically targeting the technology defenses. Instead, attackers use sophisticated attack techniques to target an organization’s most prominent risk surface: the employees.

Most of us have come across suspicious emails, in both our work and personal inboxes. Nevertheless, most people do not know how to react when they encounter one. Traditional security awareness training does not include enough practice for employees to learn what to do when an attack reaches their inbox.Social engineers have recognized the pitfalls of security awareness training. They use emails combined with sophisticated social engineering techniques to target employees. Attackers tap into people’s emotions using fear or urgency. They also use public knowledge on employees to target them and make them give away passwords, click on the links or attachments to spread malware, or make someone initiate a wire transfer.

Nevertheless, a workforce that is not only aware of the existing risks, but also knows how to recognize and report threats when they encounter one could significantly reduce an organization’s human risk profile.When employees learn to always report dangerous emails, the security team will have the right tools to react to risks and mitigate attacks proactively.

How Security Engagement Is Changing Employee Security Training Fundamentally

Typically, employee security training is focused on creating awareness. Training is often offered just to meet compliance requirements.There is a fundamental problem with solely conducting training for compliance and awareness purposes. Most employees will not have any major takeaways from the training. When they encounter a sophisticated attack, they could fall into the trap. Sometimes, employees are not even aware that they did something wrong, or simply they don’t dare to admit it. It may take months before anyone from the incident response team notices that a breach has happened. It’s not only the organization’s data that’s on the line, but also its reputation.The two primary purposes of security engagement are the following:

  1. People learn to recognize social engineering attacks.
  2. They learn to report suspicious emails every time.

Security engagement focuses on changing the behavior of the employees. Behavior change, in this case, means that employees are confident when it comes to recognizing a suspicious email, and they report it without thinking twice. It also means that even if they take the wrong action, such as clicking on a dangerous attachment, they come forward to help the security team to mitigate the damage as soon as possible.

Positive reinforcement has an impact on how people learn and how they behave. A workforce that is actively encouraged to be part of the organization’s security defenses will more likely report threats and admit if something terrible has happened.

Positivity is also the key to building an influential security culture that emphasizes that everyone can help to protect an organization’s assets.

security engagement hoxhunt

Security Engagement vs. Security Awareness

The goal of security awareness training is to make people conscious of cyber threats. Security awareness training tends to be inefficient. It could be a one-size-fits-all phishing training that occurs infrequently, e-learning videos with quizzes at the end, awareness posters in the office, or classroom training sessions. These training methods provide knowledge, but they do not equip people with the necessary skills to take the right actions. Also, the training is often outdated, which won´t prepare people to recognize the latest types of attacks.

Awareness training often comes hand-in-hand with policies that include dos and don’ts. In some companies, failing awareness training may also result in a penalty. There are plenty of reasons for employees to have negative feelings about security training.

On the other hand, cybersecurity engagement training was designed to leave a permanent impact on the behavior of employees. The purpose of reducing human risk is achieved by using the following method:

  • Continuous training: All employees receive training continuously, and it’s adjusted to their own level.
  • Human-first training: A positive employee experience is vital for increased engagement. This is why training needs to be hyper-personalized; it must be an individual experience, adjusted to a personal level, role, and department, accounting for time spent in the organization and in cybersecurity for each employee.
  • Positive reinforcement: Psychology plays a vital role in employee training. The training needs to be a positive experience to foster real behavior change. Employees must feel that they are succeeding in the training so that they will want to keep participating.

Employee security training that uses a human-first approach and positive reinforcement aims to capture everyone’s interest and get people to engage with the training. Then, they will learn to report not only the simulations but also the real threats. Engagement is the best way to make sure that employees don’t fall victim to social engineering and phishing.In summary, engagement training focuses on improving participation as well as reporting and failure rates. The more people participate, and the fewer failures there are, the more the security team can reduce the company’s human risk profile.

Security Engagement vs. Phishing Training

Many companies invest in phishing training. Nevertheless, traditional phishing training may not have a real impact on the company’s cybersecurity culture. Phishing emails are often created manually, are easy to spot, and have vectors that lack variety and personalization. People don’t feel challenged, and they rarely feel like they would succeed or that phishing training would have a real impact.

Even if employees participate in the phishing training and become aware of threats, they may still not report real phishing emails. They may be encouraged, but sometimes the process is too complicated, and employees don´t bother doing it. When employees don’t report real threats, the incident response and security teams miss out on business-critical information.

Employee training should be more than creating awareness about the issue with a few phishing emails. Instead, security teams should consider how they could make sure that people understand why reporting threats is essential and how they could make people report threats. That is where the real value of security engagement training lies. It encourages people to do the simulations, and also to report real threats every time.

How Does Hoxhunt Actually Do Security Engagement Training?

Hoxhunt uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to hyper-personalize the training experience for each employee. The personalization happens at different levels. Simulations can be personalized based on territory, language, role and department, previous skills in recognizing threats, or time spent in the security training.

The Hoxhunt training is continuous and randomized; thus employees receive training moments frequently at unexpected times.

For the best possible participation rate, Hoxhunt emphasizes the employee experience. The training is gamified so that it is fun and memorable, so people enjoy participating in the training. Positivity is essential for reinforcing the right behavior; thus, we want to make sure that people can succeed in the game.

Once employees learn to report the simulation, they will know that they need to report anything suspicious as well, emails that could be real threats.

Through the Hoxhunt plugin, users can report all suspicious emails. This provides exceptional value for the security team as they can have full visibility on what kind of threats go through the email filters; thus, they can better plan the incident response.

Employees can also elaborate on whether they took the wrong action like they opened a malicious attachment. When they report, the incident response team can start to take action immediately.

Is Security Engagement Training Right for My Business?

After reading this article, you may wonder whether security engagement training would be right for your business.

  1. You recognize that human risk in cybersecurity is a significant problem.
  2. You have been providing cybersecurity awareness training (such as using a phishing tool) to your employees. You want to take your training to the next level, and you want your organization to become more mature in terms of security.
  3. You want to ensure that your employees not only become aware of threats but also learn to recognize them and report every suspicious email.
  4. You want to have metrics on how your employees perform.
  5. You want to have visibility of all the threats you receive.

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