Why is End-User Security Awareness Training Important in Today’s Digital Age?
Security awareness starts with you. Cyber Security in an organization is possible due to the awareness of end-users. Most cyber threats to the organization happen due to the negligence of end-users.
An end-user is an employee who uses the organization’s digital infrastructure hardware and software assets such as a Workstation, Network, Server, Application, Printer, Telephone, Wi-Fi, and Database of their organization in order to perform their job duties. End-User means employees from all levels from top-level to bottom level.
The different levels of people can come from diverse backgrounds in regard to skills, knowledge, and abilities. However, the common need for all levels of employees is to receive end-user security awareness training which supports their roles and job functions in order to achieve the organization’s objective.
End-users are not the only source of cyber threats for the organization, but end-users also play a vital role to help achieve the security goals of the organization. As an end-user, you are one of the best “safeguards” to maintain cyber security in the organization where you are working. Without having a well-trained end-user, it is impossible to secure the organization’s infrastructure perfectly.
Proper security awareness training ensures that all the employees receive a good understanding of security risks and the importance of good cyber hygiene habits. There are various types of awareness training in regard to Information Security, some of which are as follows:
1. Phishing Awareness Training
2. Removable Media Awareness Training
3. Passwords and Authentication Awareness Training
4. Physical Security Awareness
5. Mobile Device Security
How does End-user Security Awareness Training help to protect organizational infrastructure?
- Execute organization security policy
If end-users are aware of the importance of information and information assets, the value of customer data, goodwill of the company, guideline of the governing body, national/international compliance, types of security threats, and mechanisms to stay safe from such threats, it can help execute the organization security policy effectively.
- Protect from social engineering attacks
Social engineering is an art used for a broad range of malicious activities accomplished through human interactions. It focuses on psychological manipulation to trick users into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive information. Most cyberattacks rely on security vulnerabilities of the hardware and software to gain access to unauthorized devices or networks, however, social engineering techniques target human vulnerabilities.
In social engineering, the attacker initially gathers information about their intended victims, poses as a legitimate person and builds trust with their intended victims, and exploits the weaknesses in the target system.
If end-users are aware of the social engineering attack and its process, they can then know how to protect themselves from any social engineering attacks.
- Protect from phishing attacks
Phishing is an attack in which the attacker contacts individuals by email, telephone, or text message by posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking details, credit card details, passwords, etc. The attacker then uses the information to access important accounts which can result in identity theft and financial loss.
If end-users are aware of the phishing attacks, and their types, and know how to protect themselves from similar attacks, then the attackers will be unable to trap the end-users in the phishing attacks easily. Studies have shown that the organizations that implement end-user security awareness training on a regular basis experience a noticeable reduction in users that actually fell for a phishing attack.
- Protect from stolen passwords
Using the same passwords for multiple sites, applications, and devices is not considered a good practice. If a threat actor is able to get the password of any host, passwords of all host/sites will be leaked. It is also not a good practice to use the sensitive application while staying on public Wi-Fi as users’ traffic may be captured/ monitored. This may lead to the passwords of sensitive applications being stolen.
If the end-users are aware of the strong password policy, using different passwords for different applications, and use of public Wi-Fi infrastructure, it can help minimize the organization’s infrastructure from attacks involving stolen passwords.
- Facilitate timely patching and proper configuration
Timely patching the vulnerabilities and configuring the devices properly are minimum requirements from the perspective of security. If end-users have the awareness to know whether the system is patched or not, or devices are configured properly or not, it helps the organization to secure its infrastructure.
- Protect from data leakage via social media
Nowadays, it is a common practice to post everything on social media. End-users have to take special care while posting any information on social media. There is a high risk that a user might have put the sensitive information on the sticky notes, and if this information is accidentally disclosed while uploading the photo on social media, it may lead to an organizational security violation.
The organization should implement a strict policy regarding the use of social media and the end-users should be provided awareness about such policy.
- Protect from physical threats
The end-user should have the awareness of the physical security of information and information assets. If physical control is not placed properly all the logical security will be valueless. So, while considering security for the organization, physical and logical security should be designed in sync with each other. The awareness regarding the physical security of the information and information assets facilitates the organization to achieve its security goal.
- Backing up Sensitive Data Encrypted
Encryption is the method of scrambling data that gives the ability to understand the information only to authorized persons. Any unauthorized person will not be able to read the information. Data has to be encrypted while it is in-store or in transit. If the end-user has the awareness of the value of data and encryption mechanism, it helps the organization to protect sensitive information.
- Secure Cloud computing
The business has been revolutionized by cloud computing, especially the way data is stored and accessed. However, with large amounts of private data being stored remotely comes the risk of large-scale hacks. As with the other threats, insider hacking is much more of a threat for large-scale cloud companies.
Gartner predicts that by next year, 99% of all cloud security incidents will be the fault of the end-user. Therefore, cyber security awareness training can help employees guide through the secure use of cloud-based applications.
- Ensure security at home
Unfortunately, the threat of attackers does not stop when users leave the workplace. Most companies nowadays allow their employees to flexibly work and use their personal devices, which is a great method for saving costs, however, there are risks associated with this. Inadvertently, malware downloaded applications on personal devices can risk the integrity of the organization’s network if, for example, log-in details are compromised.
CIA Triad (Confidentiality – Integrity – Availability)
A good security infrastructure in an organization ensures the prevention of data breaches and cyber-attacks. Such security infrastructure can be developed by empowering employees to become trained in preventing cyber-attacks. Security awareness training is a crucial and notable element of a strong cybersecurity framework.
CIA which stands for confidentiality, integrity, and availability is the foundation of security within any industry and should be the goal of any organization. One of the goals of an organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure is ‘Availability’.
A strong cybersecurity framework ensures that digital infrastructure is available and functional without disruption. The next goal is ‘Integrity’, which makes sure that all the employees and customers of the organization are aligned. The final goal is ‘Confidentiality’, which must be guaranteed while managing a large amount of data and information.
Security is a gigantic problem for organizations and ongoing cyber threats have resulted in financial damage, reputational damage, and data loss to many organizations. However, security awareness training is still a huge challenge for organizations mostly because they do not know how the end-user training can be delivered by the organization effectively which facilitates the achievement of the organizational objectives related to information security.