What are the 3 Main Steps to Implementing Security Awareness

Cyberattacks keep getting more sophisticated every day. It’s scary out there! As an IT leader, I know you need people who can spot risks and make smart security decisions. That’s why strong awareness training is so crucial.

But doing it right takes effort. You can’t just toss up some slides and call it a program.

In this article, I want to walk you through the full game plan for building killer awareness training that sticks. I’ll give you insider tips on how to assess your needs, create compelling content, and keep iterating based on feedback.

My goal is to equip you with everything you need to educate your people and transform behaviors across the board. Read on so you can have a solid awareness program that takes work but pays huge dividends. Let’s dig in!

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Step 1: Assess Your Risks and Vulnerabilities

The first key step is getting crystal clear on your organization’s specific vulnerabilities, risks, and employee behaviors. Identify your biggest risk areas based on the data you handle, systems you use, compliance needs, and so on. Analyze incident reports and audit logs to see what kinds of mistakes are being made. 

For example:

  • Is sensitive info getting mishandled?
  • Are folks falling for phishing emails?
  • Are passwords being reused?

Start by identifying your biggest exposures based on the sensitive data you handle, systems and tools used, compliance obligations, and more. Examine incident reports and audit logs to pinpoint where employees may be exacerbating risks through naiveté or non-compliance. 

Common issues seen are phishing, ransomware, business email compromise (BEC) scams, and negligent data handling.

Next, survey and interview employees at all levels to gather intel on their existing cyber hygiene habits, knowledge gaps, and attitudes. 

For example:

  • Do employees recognize the hallmarks of phishing attempts in emails? Can they discern legitimate links and requests versus tricks?
  • Are strong, unique passwords used across all systems and accounts?
  • How do employees handle sensitive data day to day? Do they follow security best practices for data protection and access control?
  • Are staff aware of fundamental cybersecurity principles like not clicking unverified links, securely configuring devices, and using caution with public WiFi?
  • Do employees know how to properly identify, report, and respond to security incidents or suspicious activity?

Assess the current training program’s effectiveness if one exists. Identify areas where company-wide improvement in awareness and compliance is needed to strengthen defenses. An honest analysis will lay the groundwork for constructive training.

Step 2: Develop a Comprehensive Awareness Program

With needs assessment data in hand, build a holistic cybersecurity awareness program customized to your organization’s culture, systems, policies, and knowledge gaps.

Here is how to develop a comprehensive awareness program.

  1. The training should instill both general best practices and specifics relevant to your company to maximize relevance. For example, proper password hygiene is a broad concept. But guidance on constructing compliant passwords for your systems makes it more impactful.
  1. Make sure to highlight acceptable vs prohibited actions based on your policies. Use real-world examples of policy screw-ups and what went down as a result. Let them know what you will tolerate.
  1. Mix things up training-wise! Short talks are fine but get creative too – videos, attack demos, games, quizzes, exercises. Put posters up with reminders. Hit core topics from multiple angles. Variety keeps people engaged so take advantage of it.
  1. If you need to level up your program, consider outside experts. Security awareness pros can focus 100% on optimizing content and delivery based on experience. Sometimes an objective outside perspective can take things to the next level. 

Step 3: Continuously Evaluate and Improve

Once your awareness program is rolling, be sure to continuously evaluate effectiveness and make data-driven improvements. Don’t just launch it and be done. It should be steady and sustained. 

Here is a process to smoothly execute it:

  1. Distribute surveys and run focus groups to gauge retention of core training concepts. Look for knowledge gaps that need to be re-addressed.
  1. Conduct simulated phishing and social engineering attacks to monitor human behaviors and decision making. Track click-through rates and reporting ratios to quantify changes over time.
  1. Compare key risk metrics like policy violations, credential reuse, successful phishing attacks, and negligent data handling before versus after training. Look for tangible improvements tied to the program.
  1. Gather feedback on the content itself and on preferences for training formats, lengths, frequency and more. Employees are customers too – their input is invaluable.
  1. Analyze these tangible results and qualitative feedback to refine your program. Enhance content where needed. Try new teaching approaches and training cadences and continue to experiment.

Ongoing iteration is key – you can always improve. Cyberthreats rapidly evolve so training must stay current. Reinforcing concepts over time and keeping things fresh ensures your program has maximum positive impact.

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Implementing a successful security awareness program is crucial yet undervalued. Don’t just check the box – follow key steps to drive real cultural change.

Security awareness pays off as a wise long-term investment. Educated staff serve as a human firewall against evolving threats. By taking a programmatic approach, you gain a marked advantage. Follow the 3 steps outlined here – your organization’s security posture depends on it. Don’t wait to prioritize strategic awareness training.

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