As a security leader, you recognize the extraordinary potential within your workforce as the first line of defense against threats — and the importance of providing practical security awareness training.
In this blog, you’ll discover crucial topics to include in your company’s training content and broader security training program. These topics will help you guide your employees to become a resilient defense against evolving cyber threats.
8 essential security awareness training topics
1. Incident reporting
Your employees are your eyes and ears across the organization and may be the first to notice potential risks. Employees may be afraid to “sound the alarms,” so reassure them that it’s best to err on the side of reporting and that your team will take it from there. Ensure they have an easy way to report risks and, if possible, find a way to thank them for reporting.
Frequent communication about recognizing and reporting risks helps employees identify and know how to quickly alert your team about potential threats or security gaps.
2. Password management
A powerful tool to combat cyber attacks is strong passwords. Explain why having them is important and what employees can do to keep their passwords safe. In 2022, 50% of all confirmed data breaches involved weak or stolen passwords.
During training, illustrate how a bad actor may try to gain access to their credentials to inflict significant financial or reputational damage to the company. Help employees practice good password hygiene such as; creating long/complex passwords, using multi-factor authentication (MFA), and using your company’s approved password manager software.
3. Safe internet use
Ensuring employees possess the know-how to navigate the internet safely isn’t just a security measure; it’s paramount for a seamless and secure online experience.
Highlight the significance of using sanctioned software, and that unsanctioned software creates shadow IT which can disrupt systems, result in data loss, and cause security issues.
Additionally, establish clear, safe browsing rules with corporate devices, urging employees to avoid visiting websites on their work device that could introduce malware, such as gambling sites and sites with adult content. You can remind them to not enter confidential company or customer data into search engines or AI tools.
While some practices may seem obvious, they are foundational to robust security. Comprehensive training ensures employees grasp the broader implications of their online actions.
4. Responsible email use
In the modern corporate world, email remains a daily staple of communication. However, it’s not just a tool for productivity; it can also be a gateway to potential employee data leaks, making responsible email usage a linchpin of security awareness training.
Encourage employees to be attentive when using email. Auto-fill features could add content to the email that wasn’t intended, or suggest the wrong recipient. In a moment of moving too fast, an employee may accidentally select the wrong “Emily” from their external contacts. Advocate for a momentary check of content and addresses to make sure company information reaches only the intended recipients. Security training that spotlights this simple best practice can help decrease the likelihood of data leaks stemming from email-related errors.
5. Social media policy
People consider social media a ubiquitous part of life around the globe — but a lack of sufficient company policies that address appropriate use and privacy settings can put an organization’s data at risk.
Organizations can help avoid security gaps by creating and enforcing a robust social media policy. The policy may include:
- Clear guidance on what company data is okay to post and what is not allowed
- Rules around using professional versus personal email for social accounts
- How to select the most effective privacy settings
By emphasizing these components within your social media policy and training content, you equip your workforce with the knowledge and skills to safeguard your organization’s data.
6. Social engineering & phishing
Social engineering is an attack method that manipulates individuals into revealing sensitive information. Bad actors pose as trustworthy entities, exploiting human psychology to breach security defenses. They use familiarity such as posing as a trusted coworker or leader, a sense of urgency, or fear to pressure employees to hand over desired information. Training teams to identify and resist such tactics is crucial.
Phishing, a form of social engineering, involves attackers deceiving individuals to divulge sensitive information through emails (or referred to as “smishing” when contacted via text). To combat this persistent threat, educate employees about the risks, teach them how to verify sender authenticity, and encourage reporting of suspicious emails. Regular phishing tests can further enhance awareness and preparedness. In the end, empowering your team to be proactive against these attacks is key to maintaining a secure digital environment.
7. Mobile device security
A recent survey of 100 information security leaders found that 91% of respondents believe that employees might exfiltrate data from corporate systems through their mobile phones. Mobile phones are becoming a popular target for cyber crimes because they’re typically a blind spot in an organization’s cyber security strategy. Of course, not all employees download company data with nefarious intent, but the end result can be the same: massive damage to a company’s reputation and revenue.
Organizations should prioritize sharing best practices and acceptable use of personal mobile devices for work related tasks, including not downloading sensitive data, implementing multi-factor authentication, and avoiding unsafe public WiFi networks.
8. Physical security
In addition to cyber security initiatives, it’s crucial to maintain the physical security of an organization’s computers and devices in office settings. Some employees may believe their offices and desks are safe spaces to leave sensitive information on white boards, but this can leave them and the company vulnerable to data leakage.
During training, help employees understand the importance of securely storing passwords, placing confidential documents in locked cabinets or storage, and locking their computers when they’re away. Employees should also know to wear their badges visibly and not allow others to tailgate behind them when entering secured areas.
Partner with Code42 for data loss security training
Understanding which cyber security topics to include in employee training is the first step to minimizing risk and protecting company data. Every organization looking to educate staff on data security best practices and uncover threats before they become more significant issues should be utilizing engaging training aimed at reducing risky employee behaviors.
Code42’s Instructor is targeted security awareness training that addresses data loss risks whether intentional or a result of employee error. It has 60+ lessons tailored to the employee experience and can address risky actions in real time. Instructor is incorporated with Code42 Incydr, a data protection solution that detects risky data movement and allows security teams to quickly investigate high-risk activities as they happen. If the employee activity is low-risk an Instructor training lesson is sent automatically, covering what they did wrong and the best way to prevent further mishaps.
The Incydr & Instructor duo are a win-win for both sides — employees can learn more secure behaviors in real time so they make less mistakes moving forward and security teams can focus their time on the bigger, high-risk data exfiltration.