Six Tips for Educating Employees On Cybersecurity


Over the past few years, the world has become much more acquainted with the idea of data security breaches, with a number of high-profile breaches making the news and even causing the victims to be seriously affected, with some companies closing down as a result. During the last couple of years, it has seemed that a new security breach is being reported each week, with hackers becoming bolder and bolder, exposing more and more details and gaining increased access to sensitive information each time.


Whilst the majority of these threats are often posed by outsiders who write malicious code designed to pilfer corporate data and steal confidential customer information or sensitive company financial data, cybercriminals are all too often being handed access on a plate due to a lack of employee and user awareness on the issue. Employee negligence and/or ignorance is becoming a serious problem when it comes to cybersecurity, with a large percentage of attacks which could have been prevented taking place.

Because of this, it is absolutely essential to ensure that each and every employee is fully trained and made aware of the threats posed to both themselves and the organisation for which they work by cybercriminals, malicious malware and social engineering attacks. These top tips will help you to provide your employees with the crucial information that they need to avoid disastrous cybersecurity attacks.


Regular Training

Many employers mistakenly believe that one training session should be enough to give employees the information that they need in order to best protect themselves and the company against malicious malware and social engineering attacks. Whilst one training session is definitely better than none at all, employers need to be fully aware that the world of cybercrime is one that is constantly evolving, therefore requiring regular, updated training for employees to be fully equipped to counter attacks and recognise risks.

When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s vital that employees are fully aware of their obligations. Whether this includes installing and updating antivirus software on personal devices which are brought to work or used to work remotely from or refraining from writing down or storing login credentials, employees who know and fully understand cybersecurity policies are in a much better position to recognise and avoid threats.


Focusing on Top-Level Staff

Top management staff and high-level IT professionals are often the main targets of cybercriminals looking to infiltrate and compromise a company due to the fact that they usually have access to the sensitive information that the hacker is trying to gain. Because of this, it’s often these employees who are at a higher risk of social engineering attacks, for example a scam promising anti-virus software updates which actually installs malicious malware on the computer instead.

Since top managers usually have access to critical corporate and customer information and data, they are often personally targeted by hackers. Phishing emails are more likely to appear in the email inbox of a top-level company manager, as their login credentials will be more valuable to a hacker who is looking for sensitive information than those of a low-level office assistant, for example. The increased access has a much bigger financial payoff for the attackers and leads to increased damage to the company, which is why it’s vital to ensure that top-level managers and other members of the organisation who have increased access to the kind of data that attackers want to compromise are made extra aware of the risks and how to recognise attempted attacks.


Social Engineering

Training your employees to be on the lookout for malicious malware and viruses on company PCs and devices is of course important, however, it’s also important to note that social engineering is one of the main methods that hackers use to gain access to sensitive company and customer data.

Social engineering attacks come in a wide range of different forms, but each has one thing in common: They prey on human curiosity and psychology. Social engineering attacks are often geared by manipulative attackers who coerce employees into handing over sensitive data by building up a false sense of trust and giving them absolutely no reason to believe that there is anything wrong.

One of the most commonly used and known type of social engineering attack is known as phishing. With a phishing attack, an employee will receive an email which appears to be from a trusted entity, for example the bank which the company uses, or even from the organisation’s head office itself. Designed to look completely legitimate and often giving away no clues to its authenticity, phishing emails usually include a seemingly authentic and ‘secure’ URL which the employee is asked to click on. This then leads them to a website which mimics the site of the trusted entity, where they are prompted to enter their login credentials, giving away information to the attacker. It’s also important to note that not all social engineering attacks are carried out online; something as simple as following an authorised employee into the building and leaving an infected USB drive on a desk could have serious consequences. Because of this, training employees to be vigilant, ask questions and not be overly trusting is important.


Recognising an Attack

Too many employers and employees are of the belief that a cyberattack ‘won’t happen to them’. The truth is, cybercriminals don’t only target computer nerds and IT professionals – in fact, quite the opposite is true. Whilst targeting individuals and companies who are better equipped to recognise the early signs of an attack and prevent it from happening makes things harder for cybercriminals and hackers, targeting companies who don’t have the right policies in place and fail to educate staff on the risks and signs can have great results for the hacker, albeit at the expense of the company.

Because of this, it’s essential to have policies in place which assume that at some point, your company is going to come under attack from cybercriminals. Don’t wait for an attack to happen in order to react, as usually once an attack has taken place, it’s too late to reverse a large percentage of the damage done.

Training employees about the different types of attacks and what to do if they believe they have witnessed one is crucial. It’s also important that employees understand that not all cyberattacks come from outside of the business; the guy sat in the office across from you may well be infiltrating the company from his computer chair. Training should include specific rules for emails, mobile devices, social networks, web browsing, telephone calls, and physical attacks. The basics, such as physically unplugging machines from networks and disconnecting should also be included. Employees should be able to access emergency IT numbers in a matter of seconds in order to notify admin of any suspected attacks.


Regular Testing

If employees have never had to deal with a cyberattack in the past, they could find it difficult to manage if a real one occurs, especially if panic takes over. For this reason, simulated, fake cyberattacks can be a great training exercise which can help to not only point out any security weaknesses in your company but test exactly how well equipped your employees are when it comes to dealing with attempted data breaches.

For example, sending somebody in to the company to pose as a ‘tailgater’ could help you to identify how many employees would actually let this unauthorised person into the building, and how many would not. This can give you an idea of whether or not this issue needs to be focused on in training and whether the importance of never allowing unauthorised personnel access needs to be reiterated.

Simulating common cyberattacks can not only give your staff something to learn from, but they can also help you to rethink your company policies and determine whether there is anything which needs to be revised in order to better protect your company, staff and data from real-life hacking attacks.


Staying Updated

In order to be in the best position to prevent cyberattacks, it’s vital to stay updated at all times. Hackers are able to manipulate code, getting past even the latest versions of antivirus software. This is just one of the reason why antivirus software is constantly subject to updates, as attackers come up with new ways to infiltrate organisations and gain access to secure data.

Updating isn’t just for antivirus software, though – staying up to date with the latest news in cyberattacks is also important as it helps you to understand what to expect should an attack occur in the near future. Login credentials and other sensitive information should also be subject to regular updates.

Preventing cyberattacks from occurring isn’t just a job for the highly technical. In fact, each and every employee of a company should work together to best prevent cybercrime and put the organisation in the best position to recognise potential security risks and attempted attacks. With an aware, educated workforce, your company is at much less risk of an attack.


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