Is Cybersecurity Awareness Training Worth the Cost?

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November 26, 2021

Introduction

Cybersecurity awareness training is an educational program that aims to help employees understand the importance of security in their daily work and learn how they can mitigate various risks.

Although there’s great complexity and depth in infosec, the training focuses on simple yet very powerful practices that tend to have massively positive effects on the security stance of a company. For example, employees learn how they can identify phishing emails, what to avoid posting on social media, and which incoming attachments could result in a malware infection.

Understanding these basic concepts and learning how to avoid the most common traps by practicing “cyber hygiene” makes a huge difference for any organization as most malicious actors initiate their attacks by sending an email to a person working for the target company.

Who Needs Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Any employee who has access to computers and network systems has to have knowledge of what to watch out for.

In the vast majority of the cases of financial losses that are the results of hacks, human error is the main underlying cause. Training all personnel is crucial, as a chain is as strong as its weakest point. If a single person blunders, they may easily start off a chain reaction within the firm due to the increased trust that others show to them.

Cost of Training vs Potential Loss

Determining if cybersecurity awareness training is worth the cost is a matter of what you’re comparing it to, or, what context you’re considering it in. For example, how much money from potential losses would such a training save for an organization.

Financial damage can be the result of payment transaction diversions, BEC attacks, data breach incidents that incur regulatory penalties, or business and operational hiccups that undermine sales or result in client losses.

If your company deals with large payment orders coming via email and approved on the fly, then the cost of organizing frequent training sessions would definitely be worth it. If however, you are not managing sensitive information, you’re not making large payments, and you’re not controlling crucial services that can affect business operations in case of a disruption or an outage, then you could probably get away with more sporadic programs.

Another thing to consider is the lasting effects of cybersecurity awareness training. While phishing actors and malware distributors are known to evolve their lures and tricks, some basic principles or “signs of trouble” remain the same. Most of what is analyzed in these training sessions stays with the attendees forever, even when they change jobs.

All in all, the ROI of cybersecurity awareness training is undeniably high, even if it’s different for each company. To calculate it for your case, consider the annual program cost and the time needed for attending the training, and then compare it to the potential savings from minimizing security incidents.

This calculation doesn’t even include brand reputation damages from data breach incidents, and the long-term impact that businesses have to endure when they lose the trust of their clients, partners, and third-party vendors.

And then there are benefits that are rarely accounted for like having more productive employees because they are more confident and less stressed, or the accountability that is exuded towards the clients. These have a tangible economic dimension and they are translated to actual financial gains.

What Type of Training Works Best

Educating employees about risky emails isn’t enough on its own. For a maximum ROI, one needs to organize and conduct the most effective training program there can possibly exist for their case.

There are various factors that determine the quality of cybersecurity awareness training, and some things undoubtedly work better than others.

Here are the key things to consider when looking for a training program:

  • Opt for multiple short modules instead of huge one-time sessions. A five-minute video per day can be a lot more effective than holding three-day programs that overburden participants with a deluge of information.
  • Use phishing tests with convincing templates that are relevant to the topics your employees deal with in their daily work. Ideally, ask your training provider to create custom fake campaigns that use your real supplier or client names, phishing webpages that mimic the real ones, etc.
  • Deliver the training at the start of the day when employees are still energetic and can absorb new concepts better.
  • Create a “positive reinforcement” system to accompany the training and boost employee attention. This approach should increase the retention of critical topics analyzed during the sessions.
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