In 2020, security breaches were at an all-time high due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Malicious actors have taken advantage of the health fears, remote work arrangements, and the economic uncertainty to launch an unprecedented number of attacks.
The rise in the number and complexity of attacks has led to costly and devastating effects on businesses and businesses. We have seen targeted attacks on hospitals and ongoing research efforts to find a COVID-19 vaccine. Even as the cyber-attacks come fast and thick, one enduring trend is that the same vulnerabilities — unpatched systems and human errors — are exploited.
Cybersecurity experts have revealed that there has been an increase in different types of fraud ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started. In the first few months of the pandemic, there was a marked increase in email scams related to COVID-19 since users were three times more likely to click on the phishing email bearing pandemic-related information.
As we came to the end of what has been a terrible year for many, COVID-19 is still raging, businesses are on the verge of collapse, and cyber-attackers are still mounting incessant attacks. However, companies can reverse fortunes through security awareness training. Practical security awareness training can help to reduce the risk of security breaches by about 70%.
How can you create an effective security awareness training program and deliver it so that everybody adopts it within your organization?
Keep in mind that the entire bunch of technology tools such as antivirus software, DNS-based security software, DLP, network intrusion systems, and web gateways are not 100% effective in protecting networks and systems. These technology tools are essential and meet best practice requirements. The human element is a significant consideration when securing networks. Failure to secure the human element — which remains the major vulnerability — will lead to a total collapse of all other defenses. More than 90 percent of data breaches are caused by human error. A human-centric approach is required in achieving an effective information security strategy. A single click of a button or phishing email can allow a malicious actor to access the network and millions of files. A study has revealed that 44 percent of mistakes caused by employees are a result of a lack of awareness of cybersecurity principles. Cybersecurity awareness should be made part of an organization’s culture to help them become more effective in protecting its assets. It helps to teach positive behavior change and reduces risks if training is offered frequently and promptly.
Back in August, it was reported that a cyber-attacker offered a TESLA employee $500,000 in cash or Bitcoin for them to install ransomware through plugging in a USB drive or opening a malicious email attachment. The hacker in question would move ahead to demand a $5 million ransom. The attempted ransomware attack was stopped since the employee reported the incident. That incident reinforces the importance of having effective SAT programs.
Besides having a security awareness training program, scheduling training right when an employee puts the business at risk will help educate them about it and reinforce the learning. Real-time awareness training will help address the problem there and then.
For an effective cybersecurity awareness culture, the following considerations must be followed closely:
- Identify a team of champions drawn from the different sectors/departments of the business to support security awareness training programs. These champions will help bring other staff on board, even in departments that are not focused on matters cybersecurity.
- Ensure that the security team can instantly respond to any risky behavior displayed by an employee on the network. Immediate corrective action will help the employee learn what wrong/unacceptable behavior is at the point of occurrence and help them reconsider their efforts the next time they come across a similar situation. Such training is more impactful than routine activities that may not have simulations of instances of risky behavior.
- Reinforce continuous learning through formal training opportunities for employees that need assistance. Blanket training for all employees will not achieve the intended results across the company. Training should be based on cyber knowledge assessment and other security simulations to ensure learning outcomes are achieved and that all employees are aware of cybersecurity policies and measures.
- Undertake quarterly simulations, especially for phishing attacks, to help employees learn how a real attack looks and what must be done upon receiving such a message to prevent putting the organization at risk.
- Help employees understand that downloading software and application from unverified sources or third-party sites is risky behavior, contradicting company policy.
- Impress all staff on the importance of not saving data to cloud file sharing apps and reinforcing the message when risky behavior happens through immediate training.
- Explain why it is not permitted to access and use TOR networks to prevent the organization at risk of attacks.
- At the onboarding of new staff, an organization must provide essential training and education to get them into the cybersecurity culture and help prevent risky behavior in the future. It helps to save time and effort that goes into doing in-person sessions.
Organizations should use a holistic approach to cybersecurity, starting with creating a cybersecurity awareness culture to enforce behavioral awareness through education and training. Cybersecurity is more than just the installation of flashy security tools. The holistic approach will tie together people, processes, and technology to prevent attacks and data breaches.
Author: Alessandro Civati