Enabling Cyber Security Awareness is one of the most important things companies aren’t doing enough in the 21st century. In the article “What is cyber security”, we explained the concept and importance of cyber security in today’s digital world. Cyber security is a global phenomenon representing a complicated technical challenge for organisations and governments alike. It also requires the involvement of individuals. Cyber security is one of the most important challenges that the world has ever had to face because of the threats that cyber-attacks pose on institutions.

Public awareness of cyber security is limited, although most have heard of the term, few understand the urgency of reinforcing cyber security measures. As of 2019, more than 4.4 billion people use the internet. The data of every user is at risk, which highlights the importance of protecting it against attacks. Businesses and governments spend billions on cyber security infrastructure globally. With ever-growing cyber security risks and regulations, it is clear to decision makers that there’s more to be protected and more on the line.

The demand for cyber security solutions is huge, and the cyber security market has grown exponentially over the past decade. But before solutions and measures can be implemented, awareness needs to be increased wide-scale. In this article, we’re going to discuss how we can enable cyber security awareness and why it’s important.

What is Cyber Security Awareness?

Being knowledgeable of cyber security isn’t enough. In enabling cyber security awareness, it should be understood that knowledge combined with behaviours and attitudes serve to protect our data and important information. Being cyber security aware means you understand the threats and are working to take the right steps in preventing them. In other words, awareness is making sure that the employees in an organisation know the urgency of good cyber security, the importance of preventing breaches, and how they are the most valuable safeguard against cyber-attacks. Cyber security awareness training encourages the careful handling of sensitive information because a person’s actions can affect an entire organisation. Lack of awareness from the person responsible can cause substantial damage in the form of financial and information loss to an organisation.

A majority of cyber security breaches are caused by human error. This could be actions ranging from using insecure external storage devices, using insecure networks, visiting phishing links, responding to spam emails, etc. Therefore, it’s crucial that businesses have some form of cyber security training in place to educate employees on the importance of protecting sensitive data and what malicious threats to be aware of.

The employees are an organisation’s weakest link in the cyber security infrastructure. Cyber criminals know the easiest way to access secure networks or steal data is to target people who already have access and steal their login credentials and other critical info.

Why is it important?

95% of cyber security breaches are due to human error. Additionally, only about 40% of global organisations state that they’re prepared to handle a sophisticated cyber-attack. As much as 54% of companies say they have experienced one or more attacks in the last year. This number continues to increase every month. Today’s cyber threats are progressing quickly. The number of reported cyber breaches and security incidents have continued to increase each year. The effects these breaches have had on organisations involved have been debilitating.

Some of the highlighted importance of cyber security Awareness include:

  • Minimising avoidable human mistakes
  • Reduce calls to your customer service
  • Reduce the chances of cyber-attacks, breaches, malware and phishing attacks
  • Educating employees on current cyber threats and how they can minimise risk

Governments also want to ensure cyber security, however, at the same they want access to the data of individuals and organisations for surveillance purposes. The idea of ‘encryption’ backdoors is contradictory in of itself, since backdoors can be exploited very quickly, rendering the security of a device or network defenceless. On one hand, governments want companies and individuals to protect their personal data, but on the other hand, they do not want them to use encryption and other cyber security measures, as this might allow people with malicious intent to hide their digital footprint.

Enabling Cyber Security Awareness

Your employees are your first and primary line of defence in enabling cyber security awareness training. Equipping your employees with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves from cyber-criminal activities. Any employee with access to a work-related computer or mobile device should undergo thorough cyber security awareness training.

This means pretty much everyone, because anyone with private or officially registered technology can be targeted. Those personal cell phones may still have data on them that can be used to access corporate networks. Or, if the employee falls victim to identity theft, their unique info can be used to create false profiles that link back to your brand, allowing for a wide variety of fraudulent acts.

During cyber security awareness training, it’s important to highlight some preventative measures that IT managers can take, mainly:

Control Data Access: Only system administrators and other relevant employees should have access to specific databases and systems. Likewise, not all applications will require universal, or cross-department use.

Consult with Experts: Third party experts in cyber security can be hired to review your current IT infrastructure, preventative measures, state of your firewalls, and other relevant software. They can perform risk assessments to measure how vulnerable an organisation is to a cyber-attack.

Similarly, some preventative measures that IT employees can make include:

Using two-factor Authentication: Two-factor authentication is a strong defence against password hacking. Confirming log-ins and identities is a good way to reduce internal risks.

Regularly changing passwords: People normally stick to the same few passwords because its less cumbersome. Passwords should not only adhere to character best-practices, but they should be changed frequently and shared as little as possible.

Being Digitally cautious: Be wary of phishing links, spam emails, fake websites, unsecured downloads, unfamiliar documents, etc. Double checking external storage devices aren’t left unattended to on computers.

It is recommended to invest in professional cyber security awareness services who are able to cater their services to your organisation’s needs. In implementing a security awareness training course, it should cover important elements such as:

  • Current cyber security threats
  • Alert/breach responsiveness
  • Defensive procedures and techniques (not clicking on phishing emails)
  • Threat reaction plans

The costs of poor Cyber Security Awareness

The average cost of a malware attack is around $2.4 million. The large number is largely due to the fact it usually takes more than a month for businesses to identify, address, patch and repair affected systems.

Costs in data breaches are associated with resolving the matter as organisations compensate clients, pay fines, legal fees, investing in corrective measures, etc. Not to mention the costs involved of business downtime as the IT department attempts to patch and recover from the cyber-attack. There are also costs in constantly updating IT infrastructure in order to adapt to constantly-changing malware and phishing techniques. Complete protection against cyber-attacks are never possible, which means companies should have contingency plans in order to survive cyber-attacks.

A side effect of being a victim of a cyber-attack is the damaged reputation of a company. Companies and organisations usually do not want to risk conducting business with a company which suffers from substantial cyber-attacks. This is because the information of clients and partners is also at risk when a company’s systems are breached.

With all of this being said, the costs of educating an organisation’s employees on the implications of cyber security is considerably low compared to the costs of dealing and recovering from a cyber-attack. Companies should treat their cyber security capabilities and technologies like they do with any business investment – performance-driven and with quantifiable objectives.

CKC Cybersecurity Awareness