Information protection is a key priority for any organization that works with personal, financial, or medical data. While it's important to use modern solutions to ensure there are no gaps in security, educating your employees on how to follow digital defense standards and policy procedures is of even greater importance.
In this article, we'll go over the importance of data security awareness training, demonstrate how to implement an employee data security awareness training approach, and examine some aspects of the cybersecurity industry to help you get a fuller picture of the potential threats that hackers may send your way.
What is Data Security?
The term Data Security has gathered — under one umbrella — all the processes and practices aimed at protecting IT systems from malicious attacks and unauthorized third-party access. Aside from logical and administrative protocols, data security also includes physical techniques to limit access to or the manipulation of data.
Cybersecurity breaches account for serious financial losses incurred by businesses worldwide — according to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 has reached the mark of $3.86M. According to Statista, in the last year in the US alone there were 1,001 cases of data breaches, which exposed 155.8M records in total. This is only a small sample of statistics to prove that privacy and security training for employees shouldn't be overlooked, especially in a world that is currently set in 'remote' mode.
Importance of Cyber and Data Security Training for Employees
Aside from direct financial damage, cyber attackers harm company reputations, lowering clients’ trust levels and loyalty. In the long run, the consequences of a serious data breach can ruin the brand image completely.
This is why it is of the utmost importance to keep your data security system up-to-date and deploy data security training to ensure that employees are aware of the risks associated with inadequate data management practices.
Summing it up, holding data security training is important for the following reasons:
- Cybercrime is only getting stronger — and ongoing pandemic has caused many companies to go fully remote, which has dramatically expanded the attack surface and methods that hackers use in cyberspace to breach individual devices.
- Sensitive business information needs to be protected — employee records, customer information, transactions, healthcare, and bank account data are valuable assets for fraudsters. The hacking of this data, however, may result in huge legal implications for a company.
- Customer trust is hard to gain and easy to lose — in a highly competitive digital environment, reputation means everything and, once lost, is hard to recover. According to Forbes, up to 80% of clients may lose trust in a brand after their data is leaked.
- Security policies save companies tons of money — the costs of data breaches are becoming greater every day. As for the payoffs, this is where we get impressive figures that range from $100K+ (which companies pay hackers) to tens of millions dollars that may come in the form of legal fines.
How to Implement Employee Data Security Awareness
1. Set up security policies and procedures
When it comes to data security, documentation means everything. The more time your company dedicates to detailing data policies and safety protocols, the better prepared your team will be for any potential cybersecurity threats.
Normally, security policies cover guidelines on access control, identification/authentication, data classification, encryption, remote use, backups, an employee on/off-boarding process, etc.
In other words, documentation on security standards defines the who, what, and why with regards to the desired behavior of individuals and departments within a company.
A established information security policy helps to ensure that the organization complies with the most common data safety regulations. For data privacy and security training sessions, data policy documentation also serves as training material — so basically, you're “killing two birds with one stone” here.
2. Explore common data security threats
Familiarizing yourself with the most common types of cyberattacks is especially important for businesses and large organizations that rely on dozens of devices to run their business.
Large volumes of private and business data — that are being processed and exchanged by employees, daily — are under constant threat from malware, ransomware, viruses, worms, etc. Here are the three most popular types of cyber threats that businesses owners should account for:
- Malware — Malicious software that infects user devices and records every action that user makes. Malware comes in different forms and formats; however, the main goal always stays the same: getting administrative-level access to a device.
- Phishing — a type of cyber attack where hackers send a victim an email or text message to trick them into revealing personal or business information by clicking a link, filling out an online form, etc. The main danger with phishing messages is that they may imitate the style and format of the company's emails, making employees believe they are messaged by the manager or supervisor.
- Password attack — combines several techniques that hackers commonly use to get access to user passwords. The popularity of such practices comes from the fact that many users prefer to reuse their passwords across different platforms, making their accounts easy targets for attackers.
This is only a brief description of the most common cybersecurity threats and not a complete list of all possible types. For more information, please contact us directly.
3. Understand which security tools your company needs
While holding data security seminars makes your team aware of current security policies, giving them proper tools ensures they will be able to act effectively and directly apply the knowledge they get.
Aside from that, even the best data awareness training won't make your network safe enough — unless it is supported by relevant hardware and software security solutions. So ensuring that your data security system isn't missing any important component is an integral part of any data awareness program.
To protect company data, businesses frequently use such tools as firewalls, access control systems, anomaly detection, intrusion prevention systems, email security, endpoint security, anti-malware software, data loss prevention technologies, etc.
4. Educate employees on how to manage data and follow security policies
When thinking about security breaches and following data leaks, it's important to keep in mind that we're all humans. While firewalls, locks, and the latest technologies hugely contribute to data protection, there's always a possibility for human error.
We aren't suggesting you blame employees, though. It is what it is, and none of us is safe from making errors. Implementing data security training sessions on data protection rules and security policies, however, can help you reduce possible risks to a minimum.
Here, employees should be educated on password management, technology usage, data handling procedures, incident response strategies, and best data security practices.
There's a simple rule to help you figure out what information to include in your training: if a data policy includes your employees — they need to know about it.
5. Educate employees on compliance mandates
A separate part of training is educating your team on data security compliance standards. These are the regulations that a business is expected to follow to guarantee that the data it processes is protected from theft, misuse, or loss.
Normally, such regulations come in the form of industry, state, or federal-lever statements issued by the government. As of today, there are four data compliance standards that a business should be aware of:
- GDPR — the European General Data Protection Regulation standard that defines a user's right to know what types of data companies receive on them and how they process private data.
- HIPAA — a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act issued by the US government for local organizations that deal with healthcare data. This standard defines safety protocols and requirements regarding the use of individual medical data, to ensure all sensitive information stays safe and protected.
- PCI DSS — a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard defines the rules that companies have to be compliant with when dealing with cardholder data.
- CCPA — a California Consumer Privacy Act is commonly described as a US equivalent for the GDPR. In some areas, it is not as demanding as the European standard (giving a broader view on the definition of private data, for example) while in others, however, it becomes tougher than GDPR.
6. Prepare employees to respond to a data breaches
As we have already figured out, due to obvious reasons it's impossible to eliminate the possibility of a data breach. Thus, your employees must always be prepared for the worst-case scenario and act adequately to the situation.
As soon as a breach happens, the incident response plan has to be put into action. Employees should be well aware of their roles and responsibilities, the event must be investigated ASAP, and the network/data recovery process needs to be set up right away. The customers have to be notified immediately about the breach, as well.
7. Hold training sessions regular
With the evolution of the digital world, cyberattackers have come out with more advanced methods for stealing consumer data. For businesses, this means that they have to have their fingers on the pulse and monitor the market for new updates and data security techniques, regularly. The same goes for training sessions — what is new today will most probably become obsolete tomorrow.
Normally, organizations conduct data security awareness training for employees at least once in 4-6 months, or when an important update shows up in the news. Another good practice is to carry out data security training for employees upon hiring.
Keep in mind though that putting your team through such training more often — weekly or monthly — will likely lower the efficiency and the ability to absorb new information.
Talking about data security, there is no magic behind it or a secret button that will be able to make your system bulletproof. Instead, data security — on par with data awareness training — should be perceived as an ongoing pursuit through which the company and its employees will get educated on current cybersecurity trends, new challenges and methods to overcome them, be given data security tips, etc.
If you want to get more information on how to implement data security awareness or simply receive professional help with your IT security solution, contact our team today.
At WTT-Solutions, we have years of experience developing software projects across a wide range of niches and markets — EdTech, FinTech, MarTech, etc. Our experts effectively utilize all common programming languages, tools, and frameworks to deliver a product that matches the set requirements in full. Fill out our feedback form in the top right corner of this page and one of our managers will get in touch with you shortly!