Cybercrime has become such a massive issue that it can be challenging to wrap your mind around the full extent of its damages. This year, it’s expected to top $6 trillion, according to Cybercrime Magazine, which means we’re losing approximately $11.4 million to cyberattacks every minute.
To put this in perspective, if cybercrime were a country, it would be the third-largest economy in the world (following the US and China). And with organized crime hacking rings and nation-state sponsored attacks on the rise, we can only expect this number to grow in the year to come.
It’s become such a gargantuan, multi-faceted problem that it’s no longer possible for security teams to manage it alone. So, what should you do?
You may have heard about the growing push for organizations to develop a security awareness program. But is that necessary? If you already have advance endpoint protection, a next-gen firewall, and other precautions in place, isn’t it overkill to expect every employee to step into the ring and fend off sophisticated cybercriminals?
Today, we’re taking a look at what a security awareness program looks like and whether or not it’s worth the time and energy to implement.
What is a Security Awareness Program?
A security awareness program is a formalized program designed to educate users (like employees) on potential threats, and best practices to help avoid circumstances that would put themselves and the organization at risk. The ultimate goal is to empower your workforce to take responsibility for protecting the company and its data assets, thereby reducing the chances of becoming a victim of a hack or breach.
Typically, these programs cover a few basics, like:
- Computer and internet usage policies
- Remote access policies and procedures
- How to spot common threats (like phishing and social engineering attacks)
- Best practices for reducing risks
- How to report suspicious activities
- What to do when you make a mistake (like clicking a link in a phishing email)
After completing the program, employees are responsible for managing their digital activities. If they make a mistake, it’s up to them to fix it. If they repeatedly engage in the same risky behaviors, they’ll be held accountable in the same way they would if they continually broke any other company policy.
What Will a Security Awareness Program Do For Your Organization?
Developing and launching a program (and making it compulsory for all employees) can seem like a lot of work at first. Gathering materials, making those materials captivating enough that their content sinks in, and ensuring everyone completes the program is, admittedly, easier said than done. But, by putting in the time and effort, you’ll benefit quite a bit.
Here are a few advantages your organization may experience when implementing a security awareness program:
- Reduced risk
The obvious benefit of a security awareness program is that it reduces your company’s risk. When every employee is armed with the knowledge necessary to spot and prevent potential attacks, you’re less likely to lose valuable data assets to cybercriminals. But, it also helps reduce the risk for individuals too. When employees build their security skills, that knowledge extends beyond the workplace and ensures they’re making the right choices in all facets of life. Eventually, it becomes second nature and a part of your culture.
Bottom line? Safer employees = safer business.
- Alleviates the burden on IT and security teams
There’s a tech skills shortage, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. As cybercrime continues to balloon, so will the demand in an already shallow talent pool. The best way to reduce the need for additional cybersecurity professionals (and retain the security talent you have) is by offloading some of their burdens.
When security teams aren’t spending all their time reacting to employees’ mistakes, they can focus on taking more proactive measures.
- Boost customer confidence
Today, consumers and organizations aren’t just evaluating the integrity of your product or service or how well you treat your customers — they’re also interested in whether or not you can keep their data safe. In fact, according to data shared by Solutions Review, cybersecurity is the second most important customer value in purchasing decisions (with quality being the first).
A security awareness program (and the resulting reduction in security incidents) will help set you apart from the competition.
Should You Develop a Program for Your Company?
So, should you bother developing and launching a program at your organization? In our opinion, it’s a resounding, “YES!”
Because the more you can educate employees on cybersecurity best practices and circumventing risks, the better prepared you’ll be for the deluge of cybercrime ahead.