Geraldine Strawbridge

Geraldine Strawbridge is a graduate from the University of Glasgow. As the Editor of Cyber Radio, Geraldine is focused on delivering the latest cyber security news whilst making cyber security more relatable to people in their everyday lives.

Employees are an organisation’s most valuable asset but unfortunately, they are also its biggest weakness. Companies may have the strongest security defence systems in place, but it counts for nothing if cyber-criminals are able to bypass these traditional technological defences and get straight to an employee to trick them into divulging sensitive information.

Research from PWC found that employees are the number one cause of all security incidents, and cyber-criminals are only too willing to take advantage of this lack of cyber security awareness to launch targeted attacks.

Phishing remain the number one form of attack due to its high success rate, however the scammers are using a range of social engineering tactics to manipulate employees into handing over data. These types of attack have grown in frequency and sophistication and are proving to be a very successful way for cyber-criminals to gain unauthorised access to computer networks and scam staff.

How do I prevent these attacks from happening?

Staff are central to an organisation’s ability to operate securely and safely. It is vital that employees have all the information and knowledge they need to support the security of a company’s network and information systems.

The problem faced by many organisations is that employees are simply unaware of the security policies they should be following to ensure that data is safe and protected.

Effective security awareness training is essential in training your employees to identify and respond appropriately to the growing range of cyber security threats. All employees, at every level of the organisation should receive this training to ensure they are armed with the skills required to identify an attack.

Implementing an engaging staff awareness programme will:

• Help employees understand and react appropriately to real and potential threats

• Raise awareness of the sensitivity of data on systems

• Ensure procedures are followed consistently

• Provide information on how to avoid Phishing emails, scams and social engineering techniques

• Reduce the number of data breaches

• Reduce costs

• Build a culture of enhanced security compliance

What’s the best way to engage staff?

Staff awareness training is critical to demonstrating compliance however this doesn’t mean that that the content should be dull and boring. It must be entertaining, or employees will simply switch off and the message will be lost. The use of stories, realistic scenarios, gamified eLearning and narratives for context will ensure that staff remain engaged and informed.

Staff awareness training will be specific to each organisation but could include training on: company security policies, phishing scams, social engineering techniques, malware, social media, using secure Wi-Fi networks, the importance of strong passwords and GDPR.

To ensure staff training is successful:

• It should be specifically designed for the audience the organisation is attempting to reach

• There should be clear advice on what steps need to be taken

• There should be multiple exercises to reflect the range of security threats faced

• Learning should be simple and easy to digest

• The content should be engaging

• Assessments must form part of the training to demonstrate compliance

Organisations should develop a fit for purpose awareness programme to keep security and compliance initiatives at the forefront of employee consciousness and combat the natural deterioration of awareness that happens over time.

The most effective way to improve staff awareness of security threats is to encourage a cultural change within the organisation. A security best practice should be promoted to ensure that staff understand what is required of them and the importance of the role they play in safeguarding the organisation’s sensitive data.

For further information on how MetaCompliance can help you develop a cybersecurity staff awareness project, or jump start an existing in-house initiative, click here