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What Is A Cyber Security Awareness Program?

A cyber security awareness program is exactly what it sounds like: an internal marketing strategy designed to raise cyber security awareness. It teaches employees how to mitigate the impact of cyber threats. Moreover, a good awareness program incorporates activities, materials and training to promote a culture of cyber security. When planned properly, provided appropriate resources and supported by top leadership, an awareness program can drastically improve an organization’s cyber security defense. 

An awareness program isn’t just cyber security training. 

Many organizations go through cyber security training and say, “We’ve trained our employees, so we’re safe”. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Training alone is not enough to defend against cyber criminals, because most people just don’t care about the training.

From a psychological standpoint, training alone does not give employees enough reason to care about cyber security. They have more important work that needs their attention; this additional ‘required training’ becomes a hassle, another box they want to check off so you stop pestering them about it. Sure, it may be engaging and entertaining and have an effect on a couple employees. But the fact remains: this is another checklist item they can complete and forget.

We’re all guilty of thinking this at some point. Think back to a time when you had to watch some videos and answer questions as a part of your yearly or quarterly HR training.  The likelihood this actually made any impact on you is unfortunately low. Not a shot at any HR professionals, but I’m sure many would agree that if leadership stressed the importance of a strong and accepting culture with HR policies leading the organization’s thought process, the training would become more impactful. 

Achieving this level of impact is incredibly important where cyber security is concerned. An unaware, untrained employee can cause more problems than they solve. And the stakes here are far higher than a subpar HR campaign. 

How does an awareness program make an impact?

A successful awareness program ties cyber security initiatives to specific company activities, which helps everyone understand their role in creating a cyber vigilant culture. When we take the time to plan this out, we dramatically improve the chances of the program convincing employees to take cyber security training seriously. Moreover, this gives employees ownership, a shared sense of responsibility in defending the organization. Without a developed awareness program, cyber security training can fail to create good habits and impart the information needed to defend company assets from cyber threats. 

What does a cyber security awareness program look like?

That all sounds great, but where is the meat of an awareness program? The answer varies depending on the organization. But at its core, an effective awareness program follows these steps:

  1. Careful planning that takes each organizational leader’s goals into account. 
  2. A program timeline with deliverables defined for each cyber security initiative, answering questions like: 
    • How will we brand the program? 
    • How will training be conducted? 
    • Will we bring in outside speakers? 
    • Where will we display awareness posters? 
    • When will we have lunch and learns? 
    • How will we communicate and enforce our policies? 
    • How often will we conduct phishing simulations? 
    • What partners might we want to include in activities or communication? 
  3. Kickoff meeting championed by top management that includes: 
    • How the cyber security strategy ties to business objectives 
    • Why training is so important to the sustainability of the company 
    • The building blocks of cyber awareness for employees (common skills and methods to help cyber defense) 
    • Agreement (Buy in) that successful cyber defense is a shared responsibility by everyone in the organization 
  4. Execution of program plan  
  5. Monthly review of program progress (along with any adjustments to program based on feedback) 

LastLine Cyber: Our place in all of this 

Much like a Sherpa guides climbers to the tops of the world’s highest mountains, we help you climb the proverbial cyber security maturity mountain, so your organization can have a cyber secure culture. At the end of the day, a successful implementation of cyber security initiatives comes down to how effectively top leadership can communicate and ensure organization-wide buy in. This is done through careful planning and identification of the internal resources needed to see the program’s success.  We give organizations the resources and expertise needed to successfully implement cyber security awareness and training which translates into long-term sustainable cyber security defense. 

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