What is Cybersecurity Awareness?
Even with the most robust threat monitoring, intelligence, and disruption capabilities, organizations and their secure networks can still be infiltrated by threat actors targeting their greatest vulnerability: human users.
Digital threat actors use phishing and spear phishing campaigns, pretexting attacks, domain spoofing, and other deceptive techniques to manipulate naive employees or executives into divulging sensitive information, downloading malicious software programs, or compromising access credentials to secure systems. To reduce their overall vulnerability to social engineering and other attacks, organizations must help their employees develop cybersecurity awareness.
Cybersecurity awareness is how much employees know about cybersecurity threats against the organization, the potential risks and consequences of a cyberattack, and the importance of following cybersecurity best practices to mitigate security risks. Research has shown that employees with a higher level of cybersecurity awareness are less likely to fall victim to cyberattacks that can result in a costly data breach or network incident.
How to Increase Cybersecurity Awareness in Your Organization
Implement an Effective Security Strategy
An enterprise security strategy outlines the people, processes, and technologies that your organization will use to detect, identify, and counteract cyberattacks and other security threats.
An effective strategy identifies critical business systems and information assets, recognizes the most common techniques that might be used by threat actors to target those assets, and outlines procedures for remediating attacks.
Develop and Enforce Cybersecurity Policies
Cybersecurity policies are the rules and best practices that employees must follow to protect against cyberattacks and support the organization’s security strategy. A comprehensive cybersecurity policy should include:
- An Acceptable Use Policy relating to company devices, applications, and networks.
- A Database Credentials Policy for securely storing and retrieving usernames and passwords to data systems.
- An Email Policy that defines requirements for acceptable use of email systems and best practices for recognizing and reporting phishing emails.
- A Remote Access Policy governing employee remote access of company systems and databases.
- A Password Standards Policy that defines standards and best practices for protecting passwords.
- A Social Engineering Awareness Policy that provides awareness of social threats and attacks.
- A Software Installation Policy that restricts employees from installing third-party software on company devices without the appropriate permissions.
Organizations can increase cybersecurity awareness by circulating their cybersecurity policies, requiring employees to read and follow the policies, and enforcing the policies with management controls and oversight.
Deliver Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Cybersecurity awareness training is administered by SecOps teams or cybersecurity consultants to help executives and employees of an organization increase their awareness and decrease their vulnerability to digital threats.
Cybersecurity awareness training teaches employees to recognize digital threats with a variety of activity patterns and attack vectors, including social engineering, phishing and spear phishing, pretexting, malicious or spoofed domains, malware and ransomware attacks, and more. Case studies may be introduced to help employees fully understand the risks and consequences of a successful cyberattack.
Finally, employees receive tips, best practices, and actionable advice they can follow to protect themselves and their organizations from cyberattacks. These often include basic guidance like:
- How to recognize and report suspicious emails,
- How to scan files or devices using anti-malware protection software,
- How to update anti-virus software definitions,
- How to protect and manage passwords, and
- How to safely browse the web.
A modest investment in cybersecurity awareness training can elevate compliance with enterprise cybersecurity policies and lower the risk of a successful cyberattack.
Launch a Phishing Simulation Campaign
Phishing simulation campaigns are a tool for enterprise SecOps teams who wish to maintain high levels of cybersecurity awareness within their organizations.
In a phishing simulation, SecOps teams develop fake phishing emails and deploy them periodically to target employees within the organization. This creates a low-risk scenario where targeted employees can practice recognizing and responding to suspicious emails in the appropriate way.
Phishing simulations keep cybersecurity awareness top-of-mind for employees. They also allow SecOps teams to identify individuals who could benefit from additional cybersecurity awareness protection and education about common digital threats.
Why is Cybersecurity Awareness Important?
Cybersecurity awareness prevents cyberattacks by teaching employees to recognize, avoid, and report the most common digital threats they encounter while performing their job duties.
Saving Time and Money
Network incidents and data breaches caused by digital threat actors can lead to unplanned downtime, lost revenue, regulatory penalties, litigation exposure, and a lengthy remediation process. Cybersecurity awareness helps organizations avoid the costly and time-consuming consequences of a successful cyberattack.
Protecting Your Reputation
When a brand experiences a high-profile data breach, the consequences to its reputation and brand value can be very serious. In addition to the enormous costs, customers may lose trust in the brand and shift their business to competitors. Cybersecurity awareness helps organizations avoid data breaches, preserving their brand’s reputation and perception of trustworthiness and reliability in the marketplace.
Monitor and Secure the Public Attack Surface with ZeroFOX
ZeroFOX provides enterprises protection, intelligence, and disruption to dismantle external threats across the web. ZeroFOX supplements your cybersecurity awareness training by actively monitoring email and collaboration platforms for phishing, impersonation, and malicious content attacks that target your employees and attempt to infiltrate your network.
Download our Free Report on The Future of Digital Threats: 2020 Insights, 2021 Predictions to learn which cyberthreats will spread fastest in 2021, and how you can mitigate those threats with cybersecurity awareness.