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The digital world is ever-expanding in scope and influence, both in personal and professional matters. In the last few years, business operations have become increasingly dependent on technology, and on employees to use that technology safely. While remote and mobile work have been necessary and useful, they also open the door for cybercriminals to take advantage of lax security measures and employees’ ignorance of best practices.
So long as companies are carrying out some or all of their affairs in the digital realm, cybersecurity is easily as important as physical security. As one cybersecurity awareness training guide puts it: “if businesses are to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, security needs to be not only top of mind, but a fluent language.” Some of the most pressing reasons for cybersecurity training are detailed below.
1. Compliance with regulations
There are many areas of business operations which are governed by legal or regulatory oversight to protect against various risks inherent to digital activities. These include HIPAA, which outlines rules regarding private health information, PCI SSC, which seeks to strengthen payment account security, and GDPR, which regulates general data privacy. Complying with these regulations is necessary for several reasons, although the dominant motivator for compliance is that the organizations can and will impose fines on businesses that fail to meet standards.
It has often been said that a business is only as strong as its weakest link, and nowhere is this truer than in the world of data security. Any one employee can be a liability when it comes to the practices that an enterprise puts in place to protect consumer data as well as their own. When compliance is mandated and the threat of fines is looming, companies must ensure that all of their employees are properly trained and informed on the regulations in place.
2. Protecting enterprise assets
Aside from wanting to avoid fines, however, businesses should still attempt to meet these regulatory standards for their own good. While meeting the bare minimum of compliance standards will keep a company out of hot water with regulatory boards, it will not necessarily protect the company itself. According to one report from IBM, the average cost of a data breach is 4.35 million USD. Ensuring that employees are trained in cybersecurity awareness greatly decreases the risk of a data breach occurring, as well as ensuring that employees know how to respond in the event that there is an attack targeting the company’s data.
3. Protecting consumer data
Ostensibly protected by the aforementioned regulatory standards, consumer data is still at a huge risk of being obtained, stolen, or leveraged by cybercriminals. An attack that only targets a company’s internal data is dangerous to the company, but an attack that targets consumer data can have far-reaching consequences that affect thousands or millions of people.
The responsibility for password complexity and variation, device and website privacy settings, and the amount of data shared can be at least partially placed upon the consumer’s shoulders. But the company must have its own measures in place as well to protect against attacks on customer data.
Thorough and effective cybersecurity awareness training will reduce the chances of employee error leading to customer data being breached. When customer data is safe and protected, it establishes trust between the consumer and the business, and protects both from the liabilities that enterprises with weak security practices are subject to.
4. Establishing skill sets
In addition to protecting both the consumers and the business at large, cybersecurity awareness training can instill knowledge in employees that they will carry with them outside of work hours and use to their benefit, possibly even spreading it to their friends and family. Employees who learn how to detect and mitigate threats such as phishing, ransomware, spoofing, and deepfakes will be able to prevent those types of attacks not only on the company or its customers, but on their own personal data. They may even be more computer-literate in general and more receptive to technological advances that bring about change within the company, rather than being resistant and hesitant to learn.
5. Constantly changing landscape
Even a company with a highly trained workforce must still make cybersecurity awareness training a priority going forward. The world of computers and data security is constantly shifting and growing, and threats adapt along with it. It is vital to refresh employees’ training and update it to account for significant changes that come about on a frequent basis. No cybersecurity training is effective if it is treated as a “one-and-done” affair, because no training can predict and guard against future advances on both the company’s end and the attackers’ end.
At the end of the day, a company must be responsible for protecting its own data as well as any data that consumers choose to share with it. All employees have the potential to put this data in danger, so all employees need to undergo cybersecurity awareness training to mitigate that risk. A training program combined with other effective security measures will make sure that employees are prepared to recognize risks, guard against threats, and recognize and react to attacks if and when they do occur. Cybersecurity awareness training programs come in many flavors to meet the varying needs of businesses everywhere, and it is not only advisable but crucial to establish some kind of training for employees.