Cybersecurity efforts should include long-term, regularly updated employee information security awareness training.

There’s no such thing as a hacker-proof company. Today’s cybercriminals are incredibly sophisticated, determined and knowledgeable. They are eager to gain access to organizations’ sensitive data, and they are always on the lookout for new strategies or tools that can help them in this goal. Making matters worse, these cyberattackers are increasingly coming to realize that there is huge value to be gained by targeting not just large corporations, but also small to medium-sized businesses. With so many threats, there’s simply no way for an organization to completely protect itself from the risk of data breaches.

However, that does not mean that businesses are entirely at the mercy of cybercriminals. On the contrary, firms can and should take proactive steps to shore up their defenses and make themselves less vulnerable targets. As JD Supra contributor Tiffany Robertson recently highlighted, these efforts should include long-term, regularly updated employee information security awareness training.

“Companies must look beyond technology and focus on the human factor.”

The human factor

As many other industry experts have highlighted, Robertson pointed out that while cybersecurity tools can play an invaluable role in protecting a company from external threats, these alone are not enough. To truly improve their cybersecurity capabilities, companies must look beyond technology and focus on the human factor.

What’s more, Robertson emphasized that such efforts must extend beyond the IT department. Even with a robust, well-funded IT department on staff, organizations may still prove vulnerable to attacks unless every employee throughout the company appreciates cybersecurity and has the skills and knowledge necessary to follow through with this understanding.

Training needs

With this in mind, Robertson identified employee training and education as crucial components of any effort to foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness.

Training is essential for a number of reasons. For starters, the writer pointed out that these initiatives are needed to ensure employees have the ability to abide by corporate cybersecurity policies. Even a well-considered, comprehensive cybersecurity strategy will fall flat if workers lack the knowledge needed to follow its guidelines on a day-to-day basis. For example, workers should learn how to identify suspicious activity, including emails and other messages.

Furthermore, Robertson noted that employees will resist cybersecurity policies if they do not understand the reasoning behind the decisions. After all, these plans will quite possibly disrupt employees’ established work routines and behavior, and naturally workers will not be thrilled by such a proposition. If they can see what kind of a difference these policies can have on the company’s cybersecurity, as well as why that is important, they will be far more willing to be accommodating.

Ongoing, diverse efforts

Robertson also argued that effective information security awareness training efforts must be ongoing. As time goes on, the most pressing and serious cybersecurity threats that companies face will inevitably continue to evolve. Consequently, cybersecurity best practices will also need to change to address these threats.

Finally, the writer emphasized that awareness campaigns should be diverse. Rather than relying on any single educational effort, companies should utilize “a variety of resources – posters, newsletters, email tips, blogs” and more. A multifaceted approach will have a much greater impact than a more limited strategy.

These points should not be overlooked. If a company is truly serious about improving its cybersecurity posture, it cannot afford to ignore the role played by employees across the organization. Too often, companies rely on a single training session to encourage their staff members to engage in safer behavior. Not only will this fail to fully ingrain the necessary lessons, but it will also make cybersecurity seem like a relatively important issue. Regularly updated, recurring training, on the other hand, automatically highlights how critical such efforts are for the company at large.