12 Essential Security Awareness Training Topics for 2023Jun 13, 2023
Given that human error is a contributing factor in 95% of cybersecurity breaches, effectively managing employee cyber risk is crucial for any business. It not only helps you avoid user-related data breaches but also ensures compliance with regulatory requirements.
A robust human risk management (HRM) program includes ongoing security awareness training that educates end-users about identifying and mitigating modern threats, as well as adopting security best practices.
What are the key security awareness training topics in 2023?
Here is a curated list of the most pertinent cyber security awareness training topics for employees in 2023:
- Phishing Attacks In a recent report by Slashnext in 2022, it was revealed that the first quarter of that year witnessed a significant surge in phishing attacks. Notably, LinkedIn was the most impersonated brand, accounting for 52% of global attempts, a 44% increase compared to the previous quarter.
Phishing attacks have become more sophisticated, with attackers employing clever tactics to deceive employees into compromising sensitive data or downloading malicious attachments. For instance, business email compromise (BEC) utilizes targeted research on specific individuals, making it challenging to distinguish from genuine emails.
Given the misconception that phishing attacks are easy to spot, many businesses are projected to experience phishing-related breaches in 2023. Regular training is necessary to educate employees on identifying modern phishing techniques and promptly reporting suspected attacks.
- Removable Media Removable media is a commonly used aspect of daily operations for many organizations. It refers to portable storage devices that allow data transfer between devices. However, these devices can become vehicles for malware when left unattended for employees to find and connect to their computers.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign demonstrated that nearly 98% of intentionally dropped USB drives were picked up, and 45% of them had files accessed by individuals who found them.
To mitigate risks associated with removable media, employees need to understand its potential dangers and learn how to use these devices responsibly. Training should cover examples of removable media, its purpose in business contexts, and measures to prevent risks such as lost or stolen devices, malware infections, and copyright infringement.
- Passwords and Authentication Password security is a fundamental yet often overlooked aspect of overall security. Cybercriminals often exploit weak or easily guessable passwords to gain unauthorized access to accounts. If employees use simple passwords or follow predictable patterns, it becomes easier for malicious actors to compromise multiple accounts simultaneously. Stolen login credentials can then be publicly exposed or sold on underground markets for profit.
Implementing randomized passwords and employing additional security measures like two-factor authentication enhances the protection of user accounts and strengthens overall security.
Physical Security Securing physical documents and devices is as vital as safeguarding digital assets. Employees should be aware of the risks associated with leaving sensitive documents, unattended computers, or passwords visible in the office or home environments. Implementing a "clean-desk" policy helps minimize the risk of unauthorized access or theft of documents.
Mobile Device Security The rise of mobile devices and remote work options has expanded the attack surface for potential security breaches. Employees using personal mobile devices for work purposes need to understand the risks involved and adopt responsible user-device practices. This is particularly crucial for remote or traveling workers.
Training should emphasize the importance of password protection, encryption, and biometric authentication for mobile devices. Safe usage of personal devices should be a key focus for employees relying on their own devices for work-related tasks.
6. Working Remotely
The trend of remote working, which gained significant momentum in 2021, is likely to continue in 2023. While remote work offers flexibility and increased productivity, it also presents security risks if employees are not adequately educated about the potential threats. Personal devices used for work should be locked when unattended and equipped with antivirus software. Providing remote employees with training on safe working practices is essential to mitigate security breaches.
Public Wi-Fi Employees who frequently work remotely or travel may require additional training on safely using public Wi-Fi services. Fake public Wi-Fi networks, often found in coffee shops or other public spaces, can expose end-users to the risk of entering information into insecure servers. Educating employees about the secure use of public Wi-Fi and teaching them how to identify potential scams can raise awareness and minimize risks.
Cloud Security Cloud computing has transformed the way businesses store and access data. While it offers numerous benefits, storing large amounts of private data remotely also brings the risk of potential large-scale hacks. While major cloud companies prioritize data protection, end-users are often the cause of cloud security incidents. Therefore, cybersecurity awareness training is crucial in guiding employees on the secure use of cloud-based applications and preventing insider hacking incidents.
Social Media Use Employees often share various aspects of their lives on social media platforms, making sensitive information easily accessible to malicious actors. Hackers can exploit this information to impersonate trusted sources and engage in social engineering attacks. Training employees on protecting the privacy settings of their social media accounts and raising awareness about the risks of oversharing can significantly reduce the potential leverage hackers may gain from accessing personal networks.
Internet and Email Use Employees using weak or reused passwords across multiple accounts are susceptible to data breaches. A significant percentage of end-users use the same password for all their accounts, allowing hackers to gain access to multiple platforms if one account is compromised. Training employees on safe internet habits, including downloading applications only from trusted sources, is a critical aspect of any comprehensive security program. Employees should also be made aware of major data breaches and the potential exposure of their private information.
Social Engineering Social engineering techniques are commonly employed by malicious actors to gain employees' trust and obtain valuable personal information. By posing as clients or offering enticing incentives, hackers can convince employees to unknowingly disclose sensitive data. Increasing employee awareness of the most common social engineering techniques and the psychology of influence (e.g., scarcity, urgency, reciprocity) is crucial in combating these threats.
Security at Home The risk of security breaches doesn't cease when employees leave the workplace. Many companies allow employees to use their personal devices for work purposes, which offers cost-saving advantages but also carries certain risks. Unintentionally downloading malware-infected applications on personal devices can compromise the integrity of the company's network if login details are exposed. Training employees on secure practices, such as sharing encrypted files and authenticating downloads, can minimize these risks.