5 Tips for Implementing a Successful Social Engineering and Phishing Training Program

5 Tips for Implementing a Successful Social Engineering Awareness Training Program
5 Tips for Implementing a Successful Social Engineering Awareness Training Program

The lack of enthusiasm around social engineering and phishing awareness training can be a royal pain for IT professionals tasked with keeping an organization’s network safe. Though it can be challenging, getting buy-in from the entire organization is essential to combating cyberattacks from social engineering and phishing ploys such as business email compromise, invoice fraud, social media attacks, and various types of phishing.

Want to hear how to get buy-in for cybersecurity solutions? Listen to this webinar with Mark Sunday, the former CIO of Oracle.

Types of Social Engineering Awareness Training

Interactive Training 

Increasing social engineering awareness can be a manageable battle when you make your cybersecurity awareness training programs interactive and dynamic. There are many ways to make the training engaging so that employees want to participate and learn. Interactive awareness training enables employees to retain the information and ultimately better understand their role in a safer work environment.

Awareness training gets employees involved and engaged. Social engineering and phishing training can address topics like tactics, phishing, malware, ransomware, Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), and strong password health through videos led by security experts. 

Awareness Videos

Keep employees engaged with the use of awareness videos. The ideal format are micro-videos that deploy automatically, addressing current cybersecurity threats, trends, topics, and stories, including how they can stay vigilant to help protect the business. Include a short quiz at the end to facilitate information retention. We recommend doing this monthly.

Phishing Simulations

Use phishing simulations to teach employees how to identify and avoid falling for phishing emails. These simulations are emails meant to mimic real-life, recent, and relevant phishing attacks. Simulated phishing attacks guard your organization against social engineering threats by training your employees to identify and report them— no matter how inconsequential or unrelated they may seem.

5 tips for implementing a successful social engineering awareness training program:

1. Clearly Communicate Expectations Through Policy

Make sure you have a technology acceptable use policy that establishes clear procedures, expectations, ownership, and communications around behavior and remediation. A comprehensive policy—for all team members from the intern to the CEO—reduces risks associated with a cyberattack. 

Communicate expectations through these policies from day one of employment. This process allows you to seed and manage the expectation of participation. Employees see that your culture includes a strong cybersecurity posture and understand that even though it might not be listed in their job descriptions, it should be a part of their day-to-day responsibilities.

Continue to set the tone with new employees by using a classroom training video as part of the onboarding process. Follow the initial onboarding with signing policies and review these policies for all team members at least annually.

Every single person in the organization is responsible for cybersecurity. So, get it built into the culture from the very, very top.

Mark Sunday

2. Incentivize and Empower Your Employees

Gamify your cybersecurity training to eliminate training fatigue and grab employees’ attention.

One way to do this is to create a challenge between departments, locations, or teams and have a quarterly or monthly incentive for the best-performing group. Post overall team metrics for comparison and visibility to foster healthy competition. Everyone wants to be a team player and help their team achieve a 100% score or avoid being the lowest-performing team.

Keep a positive approach and do not single employees out in a public setting. We do not encourage creating a “wall of shame.” Instead, include cybersecurity training metrics in performance reviews and bonuses.

Create a piece of swag, hold a luncheon, or provide some form of a reward for employees that pass every phishing test or complete the spot training if they take the bait and complete every training video for 12 months.

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Instead of scare tactics or statistics, use stories and current narratives that resonate with employees and are relatable. Place awareness posters in physical locations often visited, such as the breakroom, near office clusters, etc., to provide continuous reminders and opportunities for cybersecurity conversation. If your team is remote, send digital copies of posters regularly through communication channels such as Slack, Teams, or your organization’s preferred platform.

Create a communication channel for employees to share stories if they recognize attacks outside their training. Many organizations are concerned about the “prairie dog effect,” where employees pop up and say, “Hey! Did you get this email too? Here’s a screenshot of it.” However, we encourage this behavior because it signifies your awareness training program is working!

Include a cybersecurity mention in company internal communications, newsletters, company meetings, and intranet sites, especially if it comes from company executives. If they see a top-down focus and there are many cybersecurity advocates within the company, employees will want to be included.

4. Employees Will Ask: “What’s In It For Me?”

To increase buy-in with your security awareness program, employees must understand that they are targets and do have information that attackers would want. 

Explain the benefits of cybersecurity awareness training that extends outside of work. Give an extra feeling of “what’s in it for me?” that they can apply elsewhere so they understand that cybersecurity skills are life skills.

Cybersecurity is also job security – successful attacks could devastate a company and become a job security issue. Everyone can help protect the bottom line by staying vigilant.

5. Understand That Employees Can Be Your Best Defense

Empower employees to be the best line of defense against cyberattacks because ultimately, they are. Awareness training, policies, videos, and other tools and strategies can circumvent potential cyberattacks.

Empathize with employees who make mistakes. We’re all human. Try to understand what happened by asking them what led to them clicking a link or opening an attachment. If they were going too fast, emphasize the heightened awareness needed when under deadlines or flying through tasks. Don’t view the person who opened the attachment or clicked on the link as the point of failure. Instead, recognize that the security and training structure around that individual has failed.

Emotions of Social Engineering

We’re all human, and humans have emotions.
Learn the Emotions of a Social Engineering Attack so they don’t get the best of you.

Also, assure your employees that they are expected to report their suspicions, but they don’t need to evaluate every potential threat before doing so. That does mean that false alarms will happen, but regardless, they should be quick to follow the notification policy for fear of being wrong.

Regular, engaging employee social engineering awareness training should provide resources and guidance to educate employees about cyber threats at work and at home. Using multiple forms of dynamic training, including awareness videos, phishing simulations, digital posters, and other media, keep employees interested. Touchpoints should be ongoing and frequent, with an at least monthly cadence. Working with employees and the entire team to develop proactive measures will prove one of the best defenses against the latest cybersecurity threats.

Want to learn how to implement an employee security awareness program?

Ready to see Defendify in action? Request a demo here.

Resources & insights

Go Beyond Social Engineering Awareness Training with Detection and Response
Go Beyond Social Engineering Awareness Training with Detection and Response
Human error is inevitable even with a social engineering awareness training program that keeps pace with the frequent changes in the threat landscape. For a truly comprehensive cybersecurity program, organizations must balance proactive and reactive cybersecurity strategies.
Social Engineering Awareness Training for Employees: The Framework
We believe that your team can be your strongest line of defense in preventing cyberattacks, provided they receive proper social engineering awareness training. Consistent training, combined with straightforward policies,  and a culture of cybersecurity will enable your employees to be able to identify a threat and make the right decisions should they encounter a social engineering attempt. 
How to Prevent a Security Breach in the Workplace: Building a Team of Cyber-Defenders
While there is no exact playbook on how to prevent a security breach in the workplace, there are certainly key tactics that can fortify your company’s defenses. Our approach is highly team-focused; read on for how to build your very own team of cyber-defenders.

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