Traditional methods of security awareness training usually involve training on different security topics a few times per year. Occasional training is not enough for organizations that are looking for employees to undergo a behavior change with their security awareness training. Employees need continuous security awareness training to develop tangible cyber skills to apply in their work.
Continuous training in security awareness ensures your employees don´t make a mistake due to a lack of information and knowledge. Here are the top reasons why you should implement continuous security awareness training in your organization to strengthen your cyber defenses.
Evolving Threat Landscape
Employees need to be exposed to the latest threats in security awareness training to develop the knowledge and skills needed to identify them in real life. Over the course of a year, the threat landscape and the variation of threats targeting the organization can evolve. Phishing attacks were the most common source of a data breach in 2019 according to Verizon, which is why employees need to be alert at all times. Spear phishing with targeted messages to employees have also been on the rise. If you only offer security training once or twice a year, it won´t be updated enough to reflect the most relevant elements employees need to watch out for in the latest threats.
Training needs to include updated content that looks similar to the threats that employees will face in the wild. With continuous security awareness training, employees will be exposed to a higher number of possible threat scenarios. This will better equip them with the knowledge they need to detect and report threats to the security team.
Benefits of Spaced Repetition vs. One-off Training
Traditional approaches to security awareness training may involve one-off training or training on an annual basis. When sessions are limited to only a handful of times each year, the training content will consist of longer sessions to cover as many topics as possible within that time frame.
Employees will essentially “cram” for their yearly security awareness evaluation. This is similar to how kids cram for tests in school the night before. Employees might be able to pick up enough information to apply to a quiz immediately following the training session, but this cramming style does not make a lasting impact on long-term learning. It will also not make a long-term impact on organization failure rates, an important KPI to track in security awareness training.
Spaced repetition is the process of repeating content over multiple periods of time in order for people to absorb more information in a spaced-out format. This method has proven to be more efficient and effective for learning. In security awareness training, this means frequent, but short training sessions every 2-3 weeks throughout the year, which can easily be administered with automation.
Training can be incorporated into an employee´s regular routine by choosing a training solution that is integrated into your email client for use on employees´ laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. Then, you won´t have to worry about employees visiting a website to complete their weekly required exercises. Security awareness training that is integrated into employees´ email inboxes will make training a more normal part of their workday.
Security awareness training can lose the stigma of being a daunting task that employees have to go through when it only lasts a few minutes and when it´s incorporated into their weekly routine.
Continuous training also allows for shorter training sessions that keep employees engaged. Employees lose interest in long training sessions and have trouble focusing on training content for more than a few minutes at a time. The quicker you can explain to employees the critical pieces of information and how to react, the more effective your security awareness training will be in keeping employees engaged throughout.
If you don´t use it, you lose it.
The most important outcome of learning a new skill is being able to apply the skill in real life. Not every employee is going to see real phishing attacks hit their inbox every few weeks to practice threat identification and reporting. Without continuous repetition, an employee´s skills will start to diminish.
It´s the same effect that you see in language learning. You might start learning French in high school, but only end up practicing once a year after graduation. You will quickly find out that you lose more and more of your vocabulary over the years without more frequent practice sessions. Continuous training sessions keep security awareness skills fresh and always at the forefront of employees´ minds.
Many security awareness programs were first implemented in order to stay in compliance with evolving regulations and standards. More recently, companies are starting to see the untapped potential they have in utilizing their employees as another layer in their security defenses. In traditional security awareness programs, the invisible knowledge gap can be a big hurdle in driving a behavior change and preparing employees with the right tools to be successful at identifying threats.
“What you don´t know can´t hurt you” is far from the truth in cybersecurity.
Continuous training raises self-awareness for employees to understand how they would react when a real phishing attack enters their inbox. Infrequent training can often lead to misconceptions about the knowledge level of employees and their preparedness for a phishing attack. Giving an employee a false sense of security, is not helpful for anyone, and it can negatively impact your human risk profile. It is important to educate employees about the risks and assess employees´ knowledge regularly so they can build up and improve their cyber skills. Continuous security awareness training can also boost an employee´s self-confidence when employees are given feedback for identifying attacks. When employees regularly receive positive feedback for doing the right thing in training, this encourages the right behavior to be repeated. With continuous security awareness training, your employees will become a key part of defending your organization from attacks in no time.