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Flipping Security Awareness Training

Threats can be minimized when teams understand business goals and objectives. These four tips can help turn things around.

With threats on the rise from both inside and outside organizations, security has become a high priority for the C-suite and the board. Those at the top recognize they need certain types of security technologies to protect the business. But the IT teams who actually buy and implement those products (and the rest of the employees who are required to use them) might not be aware of the broader security needs of the business. To better reduce risk for the company, the organization as a whole must look at the full picture to identify what problem needs to be fixed, establish a baseline, execute a solution, and measure success and progress. 

Today, everyone is a target, which makes it crucial for every employee, regardless of team or job function, to be responsible for understanding security business objectives and staying current on security best practices. These company-wide security awareness tips will help do that.

1. Create a company culture that solves security business challenges. To create this problem-solving company culture, flip security awareness training on its head and educate all teams — whether customer service, finance, marketing, HR, or the security operations — about the security needs of the business so they can better address security business challenges and protect sensitive information wherever they are. Or, at the very least, understand the threat landscape and the need for constant protection. 

If teams don’t have visibility into business goals, they can’t produce cost savings, remove complexities, or identify compliance and certification gaps. As new technologies, such as the Internet of Things and machine learning, make their way to the enterprise and significantly expand the attack surface, each business unit needs to have a strong hold on overall business and security goals so they can implement solutions that effectively minimize risk.

2. Make it fun. Make it relevant. Risk management doesn’t just belong to the security team. The gamification of security awareness can be a great way to get people involved in training, awareness, and becoming a champion for security best practices. Incorporating a reward element into training programs, such as badges, certifications, and belt systems, where employees can progress from white belts to black belts as they master each level of the organization's challenges, serves as a way to engage employees and helps you track your program’s success.

3. Create metrics for success. Running a security organization, you need to know and be able to report whether security awareness programs are working. An easy way to do that is to agree on metrics at the onset and measure progress along the way. Metrics can include things such as a decrease in phishing incidents, a decrease of security-related help desk tickets, or company-wide completion of your security training belt system, where all employees reach the black belt level.

4. Manage and enforce policies. Once the business has an understanding of security business objectives at a basic level, it’s time to enforce what’s been learned. Some of the best security policies are implemented and enforced jointly by a number of business units with the common goal of securing the organization. Security shouldn’t be the roadblock; it should enable teams to be productive wherever they are, no matter the network, device, or cloud. By implementing solutions such as virtualization, multifactor authentication, enterprise file sync and share, and identity management, businesses can embrace new technologies and ways of working, while maintaining the security and integrity of sensitive information.

Security awareness programs shouldn’t just be for IT or security teams. With the rise of targeted threats from inside and outside the organization, businesses need participation at all levels. To successfully reduce your attack surface, create a program that is engaging, educational, measureable, and practical.

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Stan Black, CISSP, is CSIO of Citrix where he is in charge of the secure delivery of applications and data to some of the world's largest organizations in healthcare, financial services, public sector, and manufacturing. Black defines a converged cyber security posture ... View Full Bio
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