Introduction: What Is Security Awareness Training?

Employees are the primary targets of cyber-criminals. So, designing a security awareness training program is critical to your organization’s security posture.

A security awareness training program is intended to help employees and users understand their roles in mitigating cyber-attacks and breaches. Employees with effective cyber awareness training understand cybersecurity hygiene, the security risks of their actions, and how to identify cyber-attacks.

While building a cybersecurity team is necessary, protecting company assets and resources is an organization-wide effort.

However, most companies focus on external factors when dealing with cyber threats. Unfortunately, the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report showed that 82% of data breaches involved employee errors and misuse.

If you can somehow eliminate human errors in your organization, 8 out of 10 data breach incidents won't occur at all!

That’s a massive improvement that can fortify your entire security architecture. An effective cybersecurity awareness training program may not eradicate all cybersecurity threats. But it sure puts your organization on the right track to protecting sensitive company data and assets.

Why You Need a Security Awareness Training Program

The importance of preparation in cybersecurity incident management and response cannot be overstated. Developing a security awareness training program helps you prepare your employees and departments on the best practices before, during, and after a security incident.

Not only are there positive impacts on security, but a cyber awareness training program also has business benefits.

Here are some reasons why training your staff on cyber awareness is a top priority:

  1. To protect against loss of sensitive customer data, such as Personal Identifiable Information (PII).
  2. To protect the organization from financial losses and legal fees.
  3. Prevents damage to brand reputation and credibility
  4. To fish out insider threats.
  5. Improves organization-wide password security practices.
  6. Helps stop phishing and social engineering attacks.
  7. Addresses mistakes employees may make using email and the web.
  8. To address tailgating or inappropriate document disposal.
  9. To comply with internal policies and regulatory requirements, such as PCI DSS.
  10. Awareness programs can eliminate the risks of insider threats.

Increasing cyber security awareness among your staff will help prevent cyber security threats.

Humans have always been the target of email-borne threats, tricking them into clicking on links, opening attachments, or giving passwords and other sensitive information that can be used to breach cybersecurity defenses.

It makes no difference how much investment you've put into the latest cyber security tools or strategies if your company’s personnel can't spot a suspicious link or a fraudulent email.

That’s why increasing cybersecurity awareness can transform your employees from unsuspecting accomplices to frontline information security defenders.

Is Security Awareness Training Effective?

When done right, security awareness training can bring massive benefits to the entire organization.

But don’t just take our word for it.

Here are some numbers from real-world organizations implementing cybersecurity training for employees:

  1. According to KnowBe4, companies with regular security awareness training experience 70% fewer security incidents.
  2. Trained users are 30% less likely to click on a phishing link. This reduces the cost of phishing for organizations by over 50%.
  3. A security awareness training program brings 3x ROI or more.
  4. Security-related risks go down 70% when businesses invest in cyber awareness training programs.

What’s more? An awareness program doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even a modest investment in security awareness training has a 72% chance of reducing the business impacts of a cyber-attack.

Why wait till it’s too late?

Cybrary provides an accessible and affordable platform to train your employees on cybersecurity fundamentals. There are courses tailored for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels to help you fortify your security against phishing and social engineering attacks.

How to Build an Effective Security Awareness Training Program

Security awareness should be a continuous program to ensure that training and knowledge are used to keep a high standard of security awareness daily. Below is the security awareness checklist to develop the most effective training program:

Assemble a Security Awareness Team

The first step in building a security awareness program is to assemble a team. This team will develop, deliver, and maintain the security awareness program.

The team should include members from different departments in the organization, including those not cybersecurity-related. It’s also crucial for the security awareness team to have a leader responsible for the entire structure.

The size and composition of the security awareness team will be determined by the specific needs and culture of each organization.

Identify Company and Employee Limitations

The next step is to identify potential bottlenecks. What are the challenges that your security program may face?

For example:

  • Does your company have sufficient resources to drive the program?
  • Is there support and interest from employees, especially senior management?
  • Will there be specific time allocated for the implementation of the program?
  • What is the current security skill level and knowledge of your employees?
  • Do you have the required tools, and will any new software complement existing technologies?

These questions will help you prepare your cyber awareness program to fix roadblocks. It is recommended to get an outside perspective, such as cybersecurity outsourcing companies.

Determine Security Awareness Roles

Organizations can use role-based security awareness to train employees at the appropriate levels according to their job functions.

The goal is to create a reference catalog of different types and depths of training to assist organizations in providing the right training to the right people at the right time.

There are three ways to scope a role-based security awareness program.

Identify Levels of Responsibility

A role-based security program can be divided into three roles: All Personnel, Specialized Roles, and Management.

A strong awareness program will guide All Personnel in recognizing threats, implementing secure practices even while working from home, and reporting potential security issues.

Extra training for those in Specialized Roles should prioritize the individual's obligation to follow security procedures when handling sensitive information and recognize the risks of privileged access.

Management must understand the organization's cybersecurity procedures and policies to discuss and positively reinforce the message to employees, encourage staff awareness, and identify and address security issues as they arise. Management's security awareness level may also need to incorporate a thorough picture of how the various areas fit together.

Provide Minimum Security Awareness

Establishing a minimum security awareness level should be at the foundation of your program. Security awareness can be communicated in various ways, such as formal training, computer-based training, emails, memos, bulletins, posters, etc.

The security awareness training program should be delivered in a way that aligns with the organization's overall culture and has the greatest impact on employees.

Determine the Content of Your Training Program

It’s important to draw up the content of your training program. Areas to be prioritized will be based on the organization’s current security threats and potential risks.

Implement Organization-Wide Awareness

The key to a successful security awareness program is the timely and efficient delivery of relevant information to the appropriate audience.

To be effective, the organization must ensure that everyone employee is exposed to the same information multiple times in different ways by disseminating security awareness training through multiple communication channels.

This significantly improves people's memory of the information presented to them. The content and delivery must also suit the audience receiving them.

Perform Continuous Security Training

Security awareness training must be a continuous process. This ensures knowledge isn’t delivered annually but used to maintain high levels of security awareness daily.

As threats emerge and grow in sophistication, employees must also be trained to combat them. This should also include periodic threat simulations.

Choose the Best Training Software

You want to use the most effective training software that meets current security threats and is scalable to meet emerging ones. There are hundreds of security awareness training software options on the market, but the best ones allow you to set personalized training rather than a 'one-size-fits-all' program.

Measure Changes in Knowledge, Security Awareness, and Behavior

If you want to know whether your training program is successful, you need to track metrics. This is why it’s essential to identify company and employee limitations, which gives an idea of where the organization is security-wise.

Having a "before" picture helps the company understand how effective the training program has been. The training and awareness program's effectiveness could be measured by how well it changes users' security behavior regarding knowledge, attitude, and actions.

Key Security Awareness Training Topics

Security awareness training resources include reading modules, videos, on-the-job exercises, and testing to check for effectiveness.

The way an organization formats a security awareness training program depends on their user base, but it should be freely accessible to anyone in the organization.

However, here are some critical content topics in a comprehensive security awareness training program:

Password Security

Content should cover secure password security and management measures. This includes using strong passwords, avoiding the use of personal passwords or the same passcodes for multiple applications, etc.

Phishing Awareness

Social engineering, like phishing, is one of the most popular ways cyber-criminals target company employees. As such, security awareness training content must provide instructions on recognizing and dealing with phishing emails.


Content must provide guidelines on protecting the sensitive data of customers, the company, other employees, and partners.

Regulatory Compliance

Implementing an awareness program helps to meet regulatory compliance like HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR. Employees must be trained on the standards set by these regulatory bodies, depending on the company or industry.

Insider Threats

Security awareness content must instruct staff on identifying inside threats.

C-Level and Wire Fraud

This content type shows company personnel how cyber-criminals might impersonate CEOs and other executives to defraud the company.

Data in Motion

The program’s content must also address vulnerable data in motion and the best practices to protect it.

Office Security Hygiene

Content should cover policies on office security hygiene to protect desks, screens, and paper.

Any security awareness training should cover topics like phishing, password management, secure social media usage, social engineering, physical security, public Wi-Fi safety, and remote work guidance. Your organization should tailor training to address the most serious threats to its security posture.


Implementing a continuous security awareness training program is critical to your organization's security structure. As employees are the main targets in cyber-attacks, training them on the best practices for preventing current and emerging threats is imperative.

Cybrary helps organizations train their staff without neglecting their day-to-day activities. 96% of Fortune 1000 companies already trust Cybrary to provide best-in-class security awareness training through theoretical and real-world simulations. Learn now.

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