employee cybersecurity training

7 things to include in your data security employee training

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that cybersecurity is an essential business resource in today’s digital climate. Rolling the dice and operating without some kind of cybersecurity plan is dangerous, no matter the size of your business.

After all, 58% of all cyberattacks target small businesses.

The missing piece

Unfortunately, too many businesses overlook one key part of their cybersecurity plan—their people. According to one recent report, 49% of all security breaches can be traced back to a mistake made by a human being clicking on a dangerous link or accepting a malicious email.

If you’re not training your employees to be security-minded, you’re leaving yourself wide open to attack. The only way to close this gap is to start promoting cybersecurity training right now.

And that’s where this guide comes into play.

“At the end of the day, an organization is only as strong as its weakest link.”


Things to cover in cybersecurity training

The 7 key things below should all be covered in your employee cybersecurity training. If this is your first time putting together a training plan like this, we also encourage you to reach out to your managed IT services provider. They may be able to handle some or all of the training for you.

But however you do it—with the help of a cybersecurity expert or DIY—cybersecurity training is essential. Here’s how to make it happen at your company.

1. The no-brainers that you can’t skip even if you want to

We begin with the things you absolutely have to cover even though they’re basic and most of your people probably already know them.

Employees should use a unique, secure password for every account they log into at work. They should never share their passwords with anyone—inside or outside the company. And everyone should be mindful of physical security when it comes to any mobile device (smartphones, laptops and tablets) that have access to company data.

2. Train everyone (including yourself)

No one in your organization should be exempt from cybersecurity training. Not the receptionist, not IT staff and not even you.

In recent years, business leaders have become some of the favored targets for cybercriminals. That’s because executives have immediate access to valuable info. But cybercriminals are flexible—they’ll start at the bottom of the org chart and work their way up if they have to.

Everyone needs training.

3. Awareness is the most valuable lesson

The single most valuable lesson you can hope to teach is a simple one. Just make everyone aware of what’s at stake and the critical role they play.

Share stats. Tell them stories about huge breaches and how easily they could have been prevented. Make cybersecurity a regular topic in routine meetings. And find ways to be creative with how you do training.

It’s an important part of your job to make sure your people don’t forget there’s a shared responsibility for keeping the company safe.

4. Make training relevant

Train your employees on cybersecurity measures that are relevant to them, specifically. That means you may have to do some homework to see if there are industry-specific risks you face. In fact, you might even need separate training plans for different departments.

There are things everyone needs to know about, like how to stop a phishing attack, and there are things that only apply to healthcare organizations or financial institutions.

“The same electronic avenue that makes business more profitable and life so convenient and easy also enables those who would disrupt and frequently steal.”


5. Simulate cyberattacks . . . without warning

Simulated attacks are a great way to gauge your readiness. You can (and should) tell employees that you intend to use simulated attacks, but don’t give them any kind of clue as to when the simulation will go down.

If you know about a fire drill in advance, you don’t take it as seriously. Simulated cyberattacks are the same.

6. Hold people accountable

When you execute a simulated attack (most likely with the help of a cybersecurity consultant), use it as a teachable moment.

Some of your employees are bound to fail. Don’t berate them for it—even though the stakes are high. Instead, talk to them about what happened and why it matters. Then make sure they understand there will be more simulations in the future and you will continue to hold them accountable.

7. Reward security-minded employees

When a member of your staff brings a security gap to your attention or consistently spots phishing emails in simulated attacks, let them know you noticed.

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for encouraging good behavior. And the great thing is the reward doesn’t even have to be big. A $5 gift card to Starbucks is enough to let a staff member know you noticed their contribution and you appreciate it.