Despite having smaller databases than major firms, startups can still be the target of cyber-related threats and attacks. In fact, an article from CPO Magazine reports that cybercriminals launched 76% of ransomware attacks on organizations that are not up to date on their cybersecurity measures, such as patching old vulnerabilities in software products. Typically, these startups and small businesses need to invest more in IT staff and the proper cybersecurity infrastructure, systems, and processes.

Cybersecurity for companies shouldn’t end at updating software security, however. The workforce must also be equipped with cybersecurity knowledge and defensive capabilities to minimize the risk of breaches and intrusions. Below, we outline a few ways to educate and train your employees in cybersecurity awareness efficiently.

Engage Executives in Cybersecurity Training

A change in cybersecurity culture starts at the top. Before implementing cybersecurity awareness training for your employees, the startup’s high-level executives need to be onboard and invested in the training.

Suppose your company has an in-house chief security officer (CSO). In that case, your CSO will mainly communicate with executives and make a case for cybersecurity upgrades and investments. As discussed in a previous article entitled “What is a CSO?”, CSOs oversee day-to-day security operations at large—from identifying vulnerabilities to ensuring compliance with data protection regulations.

As such, CSOs can be tasked with providing a cohesive narrative about your need to prioritize and invest in cybersecurity. This can include background on previous threats or attacks, existing security risks, and potential costs/damages in the event of breaches and other cybercrimes.

Identify Skill Gaps in Cybersecurity

Employees are your first line of defense against a range of cyber attacks. But this can be particularly tricky, considering employee education is the most significant cybersecurity concern, among other aspects like hardware updates, endpoint control, and encryption. A report on cybersecurity weaknesses by Security Magazine identified that more than 30% of businesses and organizations noted a need for proper cybersecurity skills and preparation among their employees. Thus, your company should first identify the cybersecurity skills gap among employees to determine focus areas for training and education.

In the same article cited above, the crucial aspects of cybersecurity for employees were recognizing secure tools, complying with policies and protocols for sensitive data protection, and using removable data storage devices.

For smaller companies or startups with hybrid or remote work arrangements, the skills gap may differ and even lead to heightened cybersecurity risks. For instance, employees can risk exposing sensitive company data to unauthorized access when relying on personal or public Wi-Fi networks for remote work.

Develop Cybersecurity Awareness Projects

Cybersecurity awareness and education must be an ongoing effort. This means it helps to have specific projects focused on continuously building employees’ capacity to spot suspicious activity and practice good data and device ownership.

Different projects require different approaches, but it is possible to raise awareness all year round by putting project managers at the helm of these efforts. As described by the project manager duties listed on LHH, these managers can create long-term and short-term plans so that projects like vulnerability management, security training, and employee communications can all be accomplished on time and within budget.

With outstanding communication skills and an understanding of project workflows, project managers can also communicate with executives to update them on key milestones. Lastly, they ensure that cybersecurity and quality control standards are embedded throughout an entire project by choosing the right tools for team management, stakeholder communication, and data storage.

Test and Reinforce Employee Knowledge

Even with the most sophisticated software and advanced security controls, ransomware attacks and data breaches can still occur when cybercriminals exploit the least path of resistance—your employees. According to an investigation on data breaches by Verizon, 82% of attacks can be tied to human elements like errors and social engineering.

Therefore, it’s crucial to periodically test employees and reinforce what they have learned and understood about cybersecurity best practices. Knowledge tests at the end of every training course can help. Still, you can further ensure that your employees can apply their abilities in real-life scenarios by looking into the tools for phishing simulations recommended by Forbes. These simulators are considered some of the best since they offer everything, from familiarizing staff with common warning signs to instructing them on what to do should they encounter an attempt at fraud or phishing scam.

It may be time-consuming to go through all of these steps in cybersecurity training and awareness. But the process is worthwhile as you get to invest in your employees’ development, accelerate your company’s digital transformation, and minimize financial and reputational damages associated with cyber attacks.

Cybersecurity Measures without Employee Awareness Training Won’t Work Against Cyber Attacks.
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