Safeguarding the End-User: Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2023
Launched by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in October 2004, Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a collaborative initiative aimed at educating all Americans about staying safe and secure online. As cyber threats have evolved and become more sophisticated, so have the measures to educate and inform users. What started with reminders about updating antivirus software has now transformed into a robust campaign with the involvement of industry stakeholders, universities, nonprofits, and various groups.
Secure Our World: 2023 and Beyond
Now in it’s 20th year, CISA announced a new cybersecurity awareness program, Secure Our World. The Secure Our World initiative encourages users to take action each day to protect themselves online. The program focuses on the importance of making behavioral changes with a particular emphasis on how individuals at organizations can take precautionary measures.
This year’s campaign promotes four simple steps that users can follow to become significantly safer online. They include:
- Using Strong Passwords and a Password Manager
- Turning on Multifactor Authentication
- Recognizing and Reporting Phishing
- Updating Your Software
To reinforce these strategic initiatives year-round, implementing an effective Awareness Program can help keep the first line of defense, your employees, up-to-date on today’s latest cybersecurity threats.
Creating an Awareness Program
In an age where cyber threats are continuously evolving, employees act as the first line of defense. It’s crucial to regularly update and refresh their knowledge about potential threats. Follow these steps to create an awareness program at your organization:
- Assess the Current Landscape
- Survey your organization to determine the existing level of cybersecurity awareness.
- Identify the most common threats faced by your organization, such as phishing, malware, or insider threats.
- Set Clear Objectives
- Define what you want to achieve with the program, such as reducing phishing click rates, increasing the number of employees who report suspicious emails, or ensuring all staff can identify and report potential security threats.
- Develop the Content
- Create or source engaging training materials that cover topics pertinent to your organization’s needs. This could include videos, infographics, webinars, and e-learning modules.
- Keep the content up-to-date with current cybersecurity trends and threats.
- Segment Your Audience
- Recognize that different departments or job roles might face different risks or require different tools. Tailor the content to these specific groups for maximum relevance.
- Choose a Training Platform
- Use an e-learning platform that tracks progress and quiz scores, or consider in-person workshops for more in-depth topics.
- Ensure the platform is accessible to all employees and provides a user-friendly experience.
- Engage and Motivate
- Turn training into an engaging experience, perhaps by gamifying the learning process or offering rewards for top performers.
- Share real-life examples of cybersecurity incidents to highlight the importance of the training.
- Leverage an Integrated Cloud Email Security (ICES) solution
- Integrate informative content and banners into emails to help users stay on top of emerging threats and make informed decisions.
- Gain valuable insights through header and link analysis to proactively detect and prevent potential threats.
- Regularly Update and Reinforce
- Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field. Update the training content regularly to keep up with new threats.
- Offer refresher courses or regular cybersecurity tips via email or intranet postings to keep the knowledge fresh in employees’ minds.
- Test the Knowledge
- Conduct simulated phishing attacks or other controlled tests to evaluate the effectiveness of the training.
- Use quizzes or tests at the end of training modules to assess knowledge retention.
- Gather Feedback
- After training sessions, ask employees for feedback on the content, delivery method, and any other aspects of the program. Use this feedback to make necessary improvements.
- Measure and Report
- Track metrics like participation rates, quiz scores, and incident reports to gauge the program’s effectiveness.
- Share success stories or improvements in cybersecurity behavior with leadership and stakeholders to showcase the program’s impact.
- Iterate and Improve
- Based on the metrics and feedback, continuously refine and update the program.
- Address any new or previously overlooked risks and adapt to the everchanging cybersecurity landscape.
- Promote a Security-first Culture
- Encourage employees to share their cybersecurity experiences and tips with colleagues.
- Integrate cybersecurity into onboarding processes for new hires and consider creating a cybersecurity champions program where passionate employees help drive awareness throughout the organization.
By following this step-by-step guide, your organization can instill a culture of cybersecurity awareness, equipping employees with the knowledge and tools needed to combat the ever-growing number of cyber threats.
As technology continues to advance, so does the complexity and sophistication of cyber threats. However, by staying informed, vigilant, and proactive, both individuals and organizations can navigate the digital realm safely and securely. Cybersecurity Awareness Month reflects the broader journey of cybersecurity itself – adapting, evolving, and always looking ahead. Remember, it’s not just a month-long focus; it’s a continuous effort that demands attention and action.
Discover our additional Cybersecurity Awareness Month resources including our Phishing Prevention Checklist and Understanding Phishing: Banner Effectiveness guide.