The Role of Cyber Security Training for Your Staff

Posted on Thursday, February 29, 2024

Staff training is the first line of defence against most forms of cyber attacks. A recent study by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) revealed that human error accounted for a staggering 90% of data breaches in 2019. 

This alarming statistic underscores the urgent need for organisations to prioritise cybersecurity training for their staff, regardless of their industry or size.

So, while investing in cutting-edge security software and hardware is undoubtedly crucial, comprehensive cybersecurity training for your staff mustn’t be overlooked. 

This blog explores the role of exceptional cyber security in protecting against cyber threats. 

Key Elements of Effective Cyber Security Training

A comprehensive cyber-security training program is essential for any organisation looking to protect itself from the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks. 

Training should create a culture of vigilance and awareness among employees, empowering them to identify and respond to potential threats effectively.

Let’s address the key elements of cyber security training:

Password Management

Password management is one of the most critical focus areas in any cybersecurity training program. 

Weak or reused passwords are a common entry point for cybercriminals, making it essential that employees understand the importance of creating strong, unique passwords for each account.

Training should cover best practices for password creation, such as using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters and avoiding easily guessable information like birthdays or pet names. 

Organisations should consider implementing a password manager tool to help staff securely manage their numerous login credentials. These software programs allow users to store their passwords in an encrypted vault, accessible with a single master password. 

Email and Phishing Scams

Email remains one of the most common vectors for cyber attacks, with phishing scams accounting for many successful breaches. 

Despite the increasing sophistication of these attacks, many employees still fall victim to them due to a lack of awareness and training.

A comprehensive cyber security training program should educate staff on identifying and avoiding phishing scams. This should include training on the telltale signs of a suspicious email, such as:

  • Unusual or misspelt sender addresses
  • Generic greetings (e.g., “Dear valued customer”)
  • Poor grammar and spelling
  • Urgent requests for personal information or login credentials
  • Unexpected attachments or links

Employees should be encouraged to check any unusual email and verify the legitimacy of the sender through other channels (e.g., a phone call or separate email) before taking any action.

In addition to basic phishing awareness training, organisations should also consider running regular simulated phishing tests.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is a broad term encompassing a range of tactics cybercriminals use to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive information or granting access to restricted systems. 

Unlike purely technical attacks, social engineering exploits human psychology and trust to achieve its goals.

Common social engineering techniques include:

  • Impersonation: Pretending to be a legitimate user, such as a senior executive or IT support staff, in order to obtain confidential information or access.
  • Baiting: Offering a free gift or download in exchange for login credentials or personal information.
  • Tailgating: Following an authorised user into a restricted area, either physically or virtually (e.g., by hijacking an active login session).
  • Scareware: Using fake security alerts or threat warnings to trick users into installing malware or revealing sensitive data.

To protect against these threats, cyber security training should educate employees on the various social engineering techniques that attackers may employ and provide them with strategies for identifying and thwarting these attempts.

This should include training on the importance of verifying the identity of any individual requesting sensitive information or access, regardless of their claimed authority or urgency. 

Employees should be encouraged to politely but firmly refuse any unusual or suspicious requests and to report the incident to their IT or security team.

Mobile Device Security

The widespread adoption of working from home and mobile devices for work purposes has introduced new challenges and risks for organisations. Smartphones and tablets are often used to access sensitive corporate data and systems, making them a prime target for cybercriminals.

Cyber security training should include a dedicated module on mobile device security to address these risks. 

Employees should be taught how to secure their devices, both personally owned and company-issued, through a range of best practices, such as:

  • Enabling strong passwords or biometric authentication
  • Encrypting device storage and communications
  • Installing and regularly updating reputable security apps (e.g., antivirus, VPN)
  • Avoiding untrusted app stores and downloads
  • Regularly backing up important data

In addition to device-level security, training should cover best practices for remotely accessing corporate data and systems. This should include guidance on using secure connections (e.g., VPNs) and the dangers of using public Wi-Fi networks for work purposes.

Organisations should also establish clear policies and guidelines for using mobile devices for work, including procedures for reporting lost or stolen devices and revoking access to corporate systems in the event of a security incident.

Incident Reporting

Even with the most comprehensive cyber security training program in place, it is impossible to eliminate the risk of a cyber incident entirely. Breaches can still occur due to zero-day vulnerabilities, insider threats, or simply human error.

That’s why it’s crucial that employees are trained to prevent incidents and respond when they occur. Clear and well-documented incident reporting procedures should be a key component of any cyber security training program.

Staff should be taught how to identify the signs of a potential security breach or data loss, such as:

  • Unusual login activity or unauthorised access attempts
  • Unexplained changes to system configurations or data
  • Suspicious emails or attachments
  • Lost or stolen devices

When an incident is suspected, employees should know exactly who to contact (e.g., IT help desk, security team) and what information to provide. This should include details on the nature of the incident, any systems or data that may be affected, and any steps already taken in response.

Training should also emphasise the importance of prompt reporting, even if the employee is unsure whether an incident has actually occurred. It’s better to err on the side of caution and have a false alarm than to allow a real breach to go undetected and unreported.

The Benefits of a Well-Trained Workforce

Beyond the immediate benefits of reducing the risk of successful cyber attacks, investing in comprehensive cyber security training for staff can also yield significant long-term advantages for organisations. 

By fostering a culture of security awareness and responsibility, companies can demonstrate to their customers, partners, and stakeholders that they take the protection of sensitive data seriously. 

This, in turn, can help to build trust, enhance brand reputation, and even create a competitive advantage in increasingly crowded and regulated markets.

Summing Up

The case for investing in comprehensive cybersecurity training for staff is clear and compelling. 

By empowering employees with the knowledge and skills they need to identify and prevent potential threats, organisations can create a powerful first line of defence against the ever-present danger of cyber attacks. 

Every staff member, from the boardroom to the front line, has the tools and knowledge to keep your business safe and secure in the digital age.

Mustard IT can deliver cyber-security consultancy and training. Contact us here for further information.