The secret of any good security awareness training pprogram is teaching your employees how to mitigate the threats they’re most likely to encounter in the workplace. To do this, you need to choose your security awareness training topics carefully.

No two organizations have the same infrastructure, vulnerabilities, or user access policies to sensitive data, so there’s no one-size-fits-all training solution that you can use to educate your employees.

The only way to build an effective security awareness training program is to build one from scratch. Fortunately, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds, and there are some simple techniques you can use to identify the best security awareness training topics for your team.

This article will examine how you can choose the best security awareness training topics for your program to ensure your users are prepared to detect threat actors.

First, Establish Your Security Awareness Training Needs

The first step to building an effective security awareness training program is to analyze end user data and benchmark their starting knowledge. One of the most effective ways to assess your user’s knowledge is with a phishing simulation.

If you run a phishing simulation for the first time, like the one at last year’s Gone Phishing Tournament, phishing awareness should be a top priority if you experience a failure rate between 20 to 30 percent.

You can help reduce the rate of employees clicking on malicious links by running consecutive phishing simulations to educate them on how to detect those threats.

It’s essential to use the data you gather from phishing simulation and other exercises to ask:

  • What behavior(s) should we target with our training program?
  • What objective(s) should we target?
  • What KPIs/metrics will best showcase performance/growth?
  • What goal(s) will determine training program success?

Tools for Measuring Employee Knowledge

Measuring employee knowledge of security best practices is an essential component of designing a successful training program, and there are many tools you can use to measure their security awareness.

A simple survey, quiz, or questionnaire can help you measure the strengths and weaknesses of your employees’ security knowledge, including any gaps between their current behaviors and desired best practices.

Phishing simulations are great for developing an accurate measure of employee awareness to see who is most likely to be tricked by an attacker into clicking on a link to a phishing website or a malicious attachment.

However, you can also use other resources like risk analysis, audit, and compliance reports to identify risky behaviors used by employees throughout your organization. Examples include sharing passwords or downloading web documents, which are behaviors you can develop training materials to change.

The Best Fundamental Security Awareness Training Topics

While no two organizations are the same, some fundamental security awareness training topics are recommended for CISOs wanting to ensure employees have a well-rounded training experience.

At a high level, these topics center around recognizing vital cyber threats, protecting critical information and assets, using technology securely, and working remotely securely.

Although, as a rule of thumb, it’s important to adjust training topics over time based on shifting cyber security awareness goals, performance, new marketplace or regional data, and cyber attack trends.

These critical topics include:

1.   Phishing

Educate employees about phishing by using free phishing simulation tools to teach them how to identify phishing risks and manipulation attempts.

2.   Social engineering

Use a mixture of phishing simulations, ransomware simulations, and cyber security assessments to increase awareness of human risk and security best practices.

3.   Strong passwords

Show employees how to select strong passwords for their online accounts and devices with a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, based on non-dictionary words, so there’s less chance of credential theft or account takeover.

4.   Working remotely

Issue communication campaigns educating employees on remote working best practices such as updating operating systems and devices, installing a home firewall, using a secure wifi connection, deploying an antivirus, and ignoring email/SMS links.

5.   Ransomware

Provide ongoing communication and campaigns about cyber security, ransomware, and the risks that can come in the format of URLs, emails, and attachments.

Choosing Additional Security Awareness Training Topics

If you’d like to build on these topics by adding your own, try to choose subjects related to your existing training program content or ones that build on the issues discussed in previous learning modules.

For example, if you’ve already created training materials about phishing or spear phishing threats, then smishing could be a good follow-up topic for elaboration.

Whatever threats you address in your training, it’s a good idea to update the topics 1-2 times per year to ensure that your users get the most up-to-date information.

You’ll want to pair any training on cyber threats with phishing simulations to test employee knowledge on the topic and see if there are any areas they’re lacking awareness. With this intel, you can step in to offer extra support and just-in-time training materials.


If you’re finding it challenging to decide what security awareness training topics your training program should cover, look at your data.

Look for areas where employees are underperforming, and identify what security behaviors you want to target with your training materials.

If you want to reduce the number of employees clicking on links in email or SMS messages, you can prioritize phishing awareness and conduct regular phishing simulations to reduce the number of employees clicking on malicious links.



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