5 Ways to Improve Information Security Awareness

Cybersecurity is not just the concern of your company’s cybersecurity team. With threat actors using tailored social engineering attacks and targeting a variety of systems and environments like the cloud, everyone has a part to play in helping to secure companies against cyber threats and ensuring a high level of information security awareness.

Strong security starts with good awareness about the types of cyber attacks companies face, as well as the threats and methods hackers use. This article aims to go beyond the obvious solution of ongoing education and training to provide five ways to improve information security awareness both at the individual and organizational levels.

Information Security Awareness Tips

People rather than technology are currently the biggest sources of cybersecurity risk, and this all comes down to hackers trying the path of least resistance. Cybersecurity can seem pretty esoteric to non-technical folks. With a 2021 survey finding that 61 percent of employees couldn’t pass a basic cybersecurity quiz, it’s clear there are significant gaps to bridge for companies and their employees to become more security-aware.

With a lack of security awareness, you get easy to avoid mistakes like clicking dodgy links in emails, reusing passwords across many accounts, or leaving swathes of sensitive data open and accessible in cloud storage systems. Here are five ways to help bolster information security awareness.

1. Expand Training Beyond Dry Theoretical Content

Outdated approaches to security awareness training rely solely on the type of learning material that not everyone necessarily resonates with. Think of text-heavy modules, quizzes that call for rote memorization, and standard PowerPoint presentations. Some people might improve their security awareness from this stuff, but it often fails to engage employees effectively or provide them with practical skills and understanding.

Companies that expand beyond just dry theoretical content stand to benefit through improved security awareness among employees who resonate better with different learning styles. One strategy is to bring more engagement into the picture with interactive simulations or real-life case studies to capture attention and facilitate learning. Practical exercises, such as identifying phishing emails in a controlled environment, provide invaluable hands-on experience to bolster learning and retention.

2. Make Security Awareness Integral to Company Culture

Making information security awareness an integral part of your company’s culture ensures that security becomes a shared value and a daily practice rather than just a set of rules to follow. When cybersecurity is embedded in the company culture, every employee understands their role in maintaining security. This shared sense of responsibility ensures vigilance and proactive behavior across all levels of a business.

A strong security culture engages employees more effectively than periodic training. When security is seen as a core value, employees are more likely to take an interest and actively participate in security initiatives.

A security-aware culture really starts at the top. Leadership must not only advocate for cybersecurity but also demonstrate their commitment through actions like participating in training. Another step is to move beyond annual compliance training to more frequent, engaging sessions that include interactive elements, real-life scenarios, and discussions. Lastly, make security a part of everyday work life whether through regular security tips, reminders about best practices, or incorporating security checks into standard procedures.

3. Stay Independently Informed

It is of course important at the individual level to take actions that improve security awareness. In a company with cybersecurity baked into its culture, employees understand the need for vigilance about threats. A proactive approach helps individual employees understand the evolving nature of cyber threats and best practices for defense.

Staying independently informed doesn’t mean needing to become an infosec expert. But taking small actions like subscribing to cybersecurity newsletters or attending security-focused webinars can make a big difference. Also, consider completing courses in cybersecurity fundamentals tailored for non-technical audiences on platforms like Udemy or Coursera.

4. Avoid a Blame Culture

The SANS Institute’s 2023 Security Awareness Report identified the top two human risks to cybersecurity as 1) phishing/vishing/smishing and 2) passwords. It’s vital to remember that security awareness extends far beyond just recognizing the signs of potential threats; it’s equally about understanding how to act and what specific steps to take when a security incident occurs. And given these top two human risks, many security incidents are clearly going to happen as a result of clicking a suspicious link, opening an attachment from an unknown source, or reusing a password on several accounts.

A significant barrier to developing strong company-wide security awareness is having a blame culture when uncovering security incidents. If employees fear blame or punitive actions for reporting security incidents or even near misses, they are more likely to avoid reporting. This leads to a lack of awareness across the organization about potential threats and vulnerabilities, as incidents go unreported (and unaddressed).

It’s also worth pointing out how a blame culture inhibits the opportunity to learn from mistakes. In an environment that discourages open discussion and analysis of security breaches, your company can lose out on valuable lessons that could improve its overall security posture. Also, in a rather ironic twist, constant fear of blame and retribution can lead to increased stress and reduced morale among employees that decreases attentiveness and diligence in following security best practices.

Instead, cultivating a culture of openness, learning, and shared responsibility is crucial for enhancing company-wide security awareness and resilience against cyber threats.

5. Hold Annual Information Security Awareness Days

Hosting annual information security awareness days can serve as a good reminder about the importance of staying informed and alert about security threats. These events can include workshops, guest speakers from the cybersecurity field, and even demos of hacking techniques. Not only do awareness days keep security in the forefront of everyone’s mind but they’re also a good team-building exercise.

DIESEC’s social engineering services can help improve employee awareness about the number one human risk to security: phishing, smishing, and vishing attacks that lure people into opening attachments, transferring funds, or clicking links. Our team of specialists first performs real-world social engineering tests against employees. We’ll then take the results of these tests and tailor a training campaign to improve awareness among your staff.

Contact us to learn more to learn about our information security awareness offerings.