How to increase user awareness in your organisation

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We all know it by now: every organisation – indeed, every person – is at risk of a cyber-attack online.

Of course, responding to a cyber-attack when it happens is one thing, but implementing long-term solutions to prevent it from happening in the first place is even more important. Amongst other cyber security strategies – e.g., securing hardware, data encryption, firewall and anti-malware software, and endpoint detection and response – it’s important not to forget one fundamental thing: that security, at its core, is a people problem.  

Whilst an important cog in any security strategy, putting too much faith in the latest and greatest security technology ignores the basics. Remember, some of the world’s largest data breaches have resulted from phishing emails simply because staff members failed to identify the scam as such. At times, this isn’t down to lack of knowledge that phishing exists, but rather, it’s a symptom of organisations failing to keep cyber risks at the forefront of their employees’ minds.  

In a busy workday full of mounting tasks, emails, and deadlines, then, just how can organisations avoid employee complacency about cyber threats? 

User Awareness Training

User awareness training is key when it comes to battling the sort of errors in judgement cyber-criminals hope we’ll make at work, e.g., downloading a document from an unknown email source or reusing passwords across multiple accounts and devices (as unbelievable as it may sound, use of weak passwords is still amongst the top reasons for organisational data-breaches and losses). 

39% of UK businesses identified a cyber-attack so far in 2022 (of which 83% were phishing attempts) and 31% of those businesses reported suffering attacks at least once a week.

User awareness training is a learning activity. It provides employees with the information they need to understand the threats they face online, identify red flags and potential attacks, and take appropriate actions to protect themselves and the organisation they work for.  

As well as its educational properties, user awareness training is designed to keep knowledge and understanding fresh in the minds of users and reinforce cyber security best practices. It may take place either online or in-person.

The benefits of Cyber Security Education and Awareness

Cyber security training can be a very effective way of educating employees on the risks they should avoid and the steps they should take if they are unsure about what to do in certain scenarios.  

As a (usually) low-cost risk-mitigation tactic, the benefits of cyber security user awareness training also include: 

Increased awareness 

Of course, it seems obvious that the point of implementing cyber security awareness training is to help increase understanding and awareness of individuals’ security obligations. Keeping teams alerted as to the dangers they face online and the particular form these threats may take helps keep them from making simple mistakes that could gravely threaten your organisation’s security.   

Savings on time and costs 

According to the government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022, the average cost of a cyber-attack in the UK is £4,200. However, this can rack up to millions of pounds of damage – particularly if a successful attack remains undetected for any length of time, as can be the case with Ransomware breaches. Naturally, the cost of instilling cyber security user awareness training is well worth the return on investment to prevent breaches of any size, as is the time spent on training versus the time spent repairing the damage.  

An empowered workforce 

The last thing organisations want is for employees to second-guess their actions or keep their (potentially risky) actions hidden due to fear of making a mistake and being reprimanded. If employees are educated about exactly what to do or not to do there is less room for errors in judgement. With cyber security awareness training and regular testing, users gain confidence in their own abilities to spot red flags. This means they will be less likely to waste time debating their actions or, indeed, waiting to act at all.

Increasing User Awareness at your organisation

Whilst offering users cyber security training courses is a good start, there are things organisations can do in addition to this to boost user awareness levels:  

Focus on behaviour, not knowledge  

Awareness training is about changing behaviours, not passing tests in order to ‘box-tick’ a compliance requirement. In order to achieve this, content should be user-led, based upon identified areas of weakness and gaps in knowledge. In order to bridge the gap between knowing and doing, your employees need to understand how the content applies to them in their everyday roles, so it’s essential to provide your staff with context for what they are learning, along with realistic examples they can follow. Doing so will help foster a much-needed cultural shift in which security becomes a part of everyday work life.  

Time it right  

Whilst it may feel like there’s always an urgent need to train your workforce on the latest cyber security risks, awareness training programmes should never be deployed in haste. Consider, instead, a phased rollout, perhaps utilising microlearning modules to allow you to meet some immediate requirements whilst still factoring in your employees’ workflows. After initial roll-out, the education program can be refined and improved, driven by actual risks the organisation faces.  

Offer continuous education  

Cyber Security isn’t a once and done exercise. This approach can lead to gaps in knowledge, complacency, or just a general lack of confidence when it comes to cyber security best practice. For long-term success, your staff awareness programme should be an ongoing process; one that begins at induction and continues frequently (certainly more than annually) and offers education about a variety of cyber security topics, not just the hum drum.   

Consider your specific needs 

When it comes to staff awareness, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach isn’t appropriate for most organisations. In order for your awareness training programme to succeed, you’ll need to first consider the diverse needs and culture of your business – as well as any specific cyber risks your industry faces – and tailor the awareness training accordingly.   

Simulate attacks  

A great way to keep employees on the top of their game (and cyber security fresh in their minds) is to deploy simulated phishing attacks designed to test the susceptibility of users to falling victim to a phishing scam. Further training can then be quickly deployed to any employees that need it – i.e., those that clicked on the fake phishing link – therefore building your organisation’s resilience against this very common attack vector.  


If you would like to discuss our cyber security services and how we can help your organisation be cyber-aware, feel free to contact us through our get in touch button.

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