With an ever-increasing threat complexity across the cyber threat landscape, Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM) provides an opportunity to reflect on how enterprises can enhance their defenses and educate employees on cyber security best practices.
Few areas are as important to focus on as security awareness. As part of the 2021 Gone Phishing Tournament, launched during CSAM, Terranova Security sent 1,000,000 phishing emails to participating organizations.
found that nearly one in every five participants clicked on the phishing email link. A substantial number of organizations exhibited poor security awareness among employees. This lack of training leaves all business units vulnerable to high-risk behaviors like clicking on malicious links or downloading suspicious attachments.
This article highlights how CSAM can encourage employees to make better security choices, examine why it’s essential, and how organizations can use it as an opportunity to improve their security posture.
What is Cyber Security Awareness Month
Led by the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) in partnership with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Cyber Security Awareness Month is an international campaign that takes place every October.
This event aims to educate public organizations and private enterprises on how to raise security awareness. It also provides enterprises a valuable opportunity to reevaluate cyber security training approaches, drive cultural change, and ensure that employees can embrace security-conscious best practices.
Core topics for this year’s event include:
- Enabling multi-factor authentication
- Using strong passwords
- Storing credentials in a password manager
- Updating software, and
- Recognizing/reporting phishing attempts
You can keep track of other announcements related to the event by following the hashtags #BeCyberSmart and #CybersecurityAwarenessMonth across all social media platforms.
Why is Cybersecurity Awareness Month Important?
Cybersecurity Awareness Month is important because employees’ security awareness levels often dictate how successful certain cyber threats become. According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 82% of breaches involve the human element, including social attacks, errors, and misuse.
All it takes for a threat actor to gain access to your environment is a single employee clicking on a malicious link or attachment in a phishing email. Likewise, if employees aren’t selecting strong passwords and reusing credentials across many different services, they’re leaving the door open for hackers to break into their accounts.
Educating employees on key security awareness topics decreases the likelihood of unsafe behaviors putting sensitive information at risk. By reaffirming security awareness training, you can:
- Decrease the chance that employees will click on links or attachments in phishing emails
- Teach employees how to select a strong password to reduce credential theft
- Enable multi-factor authentication to make online accounts more difficult to hack
- Encourage employees to keep personal devices up to date with the latest security updates so there are no vulnerabilities
5 Ways to Take Advantage of Cybersecurity Awareness Month
If you’re looking to get the most out of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are five ways to start:
1. Reinforce that cyber security is a priority
Use internal communication tools to share opportunities for employees to learn more about protecting themselves from cyber threats. These include infographics, educational videos, blog posts, and more.
2. Share cyber security awareness best practice content
Make the learning experience fun and engaging with short and easily digestible training content. Visit our Cyber Security Hub for ideas to equip your employees with the information they need to become cyber heroes.
3. Give employees hands-on experience detecting and reporting cyber threats
Look to structure your employee training around first-hand experience responding to cyber threats. Phishing simulations are a highly effective tool for this.
4. Gamify the cyber security awareness experience
Create a points system, leaderboard, or prize system to entice employees to participate and engage with CSAM activities.
5. Appoint internal cyber security evangelists
Spread enthusiasm and knowledge by supporting internal ambassadors. They don’t have to be part of your security and IT team to be effective.
(BONUS) 6. Participate in CSAM events
In line with CSAM, the NCA hosts the Cybersecurity Awareness Month Champion event. By signing up, you get to show your support for this campaign and receive a toolkit of material to help them implement security awareness initiatives.
Not Sure Where to Start? Try Phishing Awareness
Phishing is the most common type of social engineering. And while there are many best practices you can focus on educating employees about, few are as crucial as phishing. Research shows that in 2021, 83% of organizations fell victim to a phishing attempt where a user was tricked into clicking on a malicious email link or attachment.
Given how common phishing attempts are, even opting to focus solely on phishing awareness will significantly reduce your organization’s exposure to credential theft and social engineering attempts.
Offering employees phishing simulations enables you to test their ability to detect malicious emails. It also allows them to experiment with picking out threatening emails in the wild, making them less likely to click on a malware attachment or link to a phishing site.
Seize the opportunity to grow a more robust cyber security-aware culture
Cybersecurity Awareness Month isn’t just a time to reconsider your technical security strategy but a chance to teach employees how to protect themselves from phishing and social engineering threats.
While each of these actions may seem small, combined, they can significantly impact your organization’s security posture and drastically reduce the chance of a data breach.
By partaking in this month-long event, your organization can reinforce crucial online hygiene and, regardless of current security awareness maturity level, grow an internal mindset where best practices are always top-of-mind.
Cyber Security Hub: Access Exclusive Cyber Security Content
Looking to bolster your CSAM efforts? Deliver engaging, instantly shareable cyber security best practices by grabbing free content kits from the Cyber Security Hub!