Security Awareness Training

Security awareness training educates employees on how to prevent and mitigate cyberattacks.

The process, which usually involves continued training and learning sessions led by IT personnel, emphasizes the importance of proper cybersecurity etiquette and the role each employee plays in minimizing cyberattack vulnerabilities.

When carried out effectively, security awareness training enables every employee to understand, detect, and report security risks before they cause damage.

Types of security awareness training

Security awareness training comes in several different forms and flavors. Training that teaches users about cybersecurity best practices and common threats include classroom-based, real-time online, and asynchronous instruction. The first two methods occur in a lecture-based format, while the latter occurs on-demand, often through a series of recorded videos, presentation slides, and quizzes. Another form of training is simulated-based instruction, which uses hands-on, practical examples to teach users. Using templates created from IT personnel, users receive fake phishing emails. If they click a phishing link or download an attachment, they’re alerted in hopes of avoiding future occurrences.

Security awareness training also varies by frequency. This includes:

Annual training. A common form of training, annual instruction is often reserved for classroom-based and real-time online instruction, as both require significant expense and logistical hurdles. In this model, users often struggle to apply learning to real attacks because it may take weeks or months after training before encountering a threat.

Periodic training. Periodic training occurs more frequently than annual training programs, such as quarterly or monthly. For users, periodic training shortens the time between training and experiencing a cyberthreat.

On-the-fly, user-based training. A more recent and sophisticated form of instruction, real-time training attempts to instruct users at the time of an incident, such as when users click a phishing link or attachment. When this happens, users receive online education that matches the content and context of their cyber activities and threats they interact with. On-the-fly, user-based training depends on AI technology and results in better cybersecurity outcomes.

Security awareness training topics

Security awareness training has existed for many years, focusing on evergreen topics such as protecting your workstation and creating safe and effective passwords. With the shift to remote work, however, the scope of security awareness topics has expanded to cover new vulnerabilities. Common security topics include:

  • Phishing attacks
  • Malware attacks
  • Email security
  • Internet use
  • Passwords
  • Removable media
  • Physical and mobile device security
  • Public Wi-Fi
  • Cloud security
  • Social media use