With the rapid increase in crime rate and security breaches, there is a growing need to train employees to be security conscious; and with the continued increase in security threats and identity theft, large corporations are spending several thousands to millions of dollars – as well as time and effort – on securing their confidential information and their network. However, the objective behind these huge expenses can be totally defeated if employees do not understand what roles they need to play in the security plan.
Even if an organization has strict security policies and state-of-the-art technology, it may still not be as secure as it should be. In fact, according to a 2006 research, a whopping 40% of the IT managers surveyed admitted that their organizations experienced at least one security breach in the last year.
With the above in mind, you would agree that organizations need to do more in order to enhance the security of physical and information assets. Since carelessness on the part of employees is one of the most common channels through which vital information leaks, it is very important that organizations give their employees adequate security and awareness training.
While some cases of security breach may be masterminded, most of the time they result from mistakes by employees. Examples of such mistakes (that can pose security risks to organizations) include the following:
- Using passwords that are poorly coined or that are easy to guess or manipulate
- Failure to update firewalls and antivirus software, which may lead to infection of computers with malicious programs
- Careless and improper control of PCs, laptops, smart phones, and other devices that may hold vital information
- Spending too much time on the web and downloading files that can reduce network bandwidth as well as employee productivity
- Downloading files and email attachments that contain malicious programs
- Divulging confidential information after falling prey to a social engineering attack or some other unscrupulous plot by hackers
However, with adequate training on security awareness, employees will recognize and protect an organization from possible security risks. In other words, having adequate security and awareness training will give employees the knowledge and enlightenment they need in order to better protect an organization’s physical and information assets through security-conscious and proactive measures.
With a security awareness program in place, all employees in an organization – from the topmost to the least in rank – will understand the organization’s security policies as well as their individual roles in protecting the organization’s proprietary information. However, without such an arrangement in place for its employees, an organization cannot hold its employees responsible for any security breaches.
Furthermore, only when the employees in an organization have been adequately trained on security awareness can they work with the security technology provided in order to keep the organization’s vital information secure. Employees without a solid background in security awareness would not be able to develop mindsets that are in line with the security protection objectives of the organization.
How to plan and implement a security awareness training program for employees
This discourse would not be complete if we only discussed the need for organizations to boost defense mechanisms by arranging adequate security and awareness training for their employees. We also need to discuss how to plan this smart measure. Here are steps to be followed in planning a security awareness education and training program before its launch:
- The organization must evaluate its existing security policies as well as its employees’ level of security awareness. All security awareness problems or related needs within the organization’s environment must be taken into account.
- The organization should define the goals and objectives for the awareness training program. These objectives must be in line with the overall goals of the organization as well as with current security practices and methods.
- Personnel from the various departments within the organization (such as accounting, IT and physical security, legal, human resources, internal communications, and marketing) should be brought together to discuss the various security challenges the organization is facing or has faced. This will help to produce a complete security program for the organization with specialized objectives for each department.
- The senior officers and upper management within the organization should be shown how an effective security awareness training program can have a positive impact on an organization’s reputation. A cost-benefit analysis should be presented, showing how much the organization is losing to security breaches and how these arise from human error most of the time. It should also be made known that employees can help prevent such vulnerabilities if they have adequate security awareness training.
- The organization should plan how the training would be delivered. Would a seminar be organized? Would the training be delivered as modules to employees email addresses? Would a webinar be more preferable? These questions should be answered and the most suitable delivery option chosen, with the employees put in consideration. If the employees are not used to webinars, opting for a webinar would obviously be a big mistake.
Organizations will continue to enjoy enhanced physical and information security as well as employee productivity if they provide adequate security awareness training to their employees.