In this week’s installment of our series on Mastering Cyber Hygiene, I want to dive deeper into the importance of a cybersecurity awareness training program. As a cybersecurity professional, I know the importance of training everyone in an organization on the best practices of cyber hygiene. As a refresher, cyber hygiene refers to the practices and steps taken to maintain the security of an organization's information systems and networks. Cyber hygiene is an integral first step in securing your company’s information technology (IT) infrastructure. In this article, I will review the importance of cyber hygiene, the CIS Critical Security Controls Implementation Group 1 framework, cybersecurity awareness and skills training essentials, how to implement a cyber hygiene training program in your organization, and cyber hygiene services and tools to help your organization stay secure.
Introduction to Cyber Hygiene and why it's important
Cyber hygiene is essential because it builds a strong foundation that protects an organization from cyber threats, data breaches and cyberattacks. Cyber threats are becoming more prevalent, sophisticated, and costly. The average cost of a data breach in 2022 is $4.35 million, according to a report by IBM. Alarmingly, while the actual volume of cyberattacks may be leveling off, the costs to businesses keeps increasing. With the rise of remote work and cloud computing, cyber threats are more challenging to detect and prevent.
Cyber hygiene is a crucial component of an organization's cybersecurity program. By implementing best practices for security, organizations can reduce their risk of a cyberattack, minimize the impact of a breach, and protect sensitive information. As discussed in previous posts, studies have found that strengthening a company’s cybersecurity posture can reduce likelihood and impact of a cyber incident by nearly 90%. Every employee in an organization has a role to play in maintaining cyber hygiene. From the IT department to the front desk, everyone must be aware of their responsibilities to keep the organization safe.
CIS Critical Security Controls Implementation Group 1 - A Framework for Cyber Hygiene
The Center for Internet Security (CIS) has developed a framework for cyber hygiene called the Critical Security Controls. The CIS Critical Security Controls Implementation Group 1 provides a prioritized set of actions to improve an organization's cybersecurity posture. The CIS Controls are divided into three sections: Basic, Foundational, and Organizational.
The Basic section includes six controls that are considered essential for all organizations to implement.
The Foundational section includes ten controls that build upon the Basic controls.
The Organizational section includes five controls that focus on governance, risk management, and compliance.
The CIS Critical Security Controls Implementation Group 1 framework provides a comprehensive approach to cyber hygiene. By implementing these controls, organizations can ensure that they are taking necessary first steps to protect their information systems and networks. We have tried to break these steps down in to digestible bits of information so that you are not overwhelmed. Digestible is relative of course.
Cybersecurity awareness and skills training essentials
Cybersecurity awareness and skills training is essential for all employees in an organization. I have often heard throughout my career in law enforcement the maxim, “we do not rise to our levels of expectation in battle, instead we fall to our level of preparation”. Dealing with a cyber incident will be harrowing and you will feel like you are battling for your business’ survival. Better to have a high level of preparation to meet those levels of expectation. Employees must be aware of the risks of cyber threats and understand how to prevent them and this is best accomplished through regular training. Cybersecurity awareness training should cover topics such as social engineering, authentication best practices (i.e., password management), data handling best practices, the importance of recognizing and reporting potential security issues, and whatever other cybersecurity topics are relevant to your business’ industry. Skills training should focus on specific areas of cybersecurity, such as network security, incident response, and vulnerability management.
By providing employees with the necessary skills and knowledge, organizations can ensure that they have a competent and capable workforce.
How to implement a Cyber Hygiene training program in your organization
Implementing a cyber hygiene training program in your organization requires careful planning and execution. The first step is to assess your organization's current cybersecurity posture and identify areas for improvement (This would have been done as part of your implementation of “Mastering Cyber Hygiene: Best Practices for Software, Data and Account Inventory Management”). Once you have identified the areas that need improvement, you can develop a training program that then addresses those areas.
Identify the training needs: Identify the areas where employees need training based on their job roles and responsibilities.
Develop the training program: Develop a training program that covers the essential cybersecurity topics mentioned above.
Deliver the training: Deliver the training through various methods, such as classroom training, online training, and posters.
Test the effectiveness of the training: Test the effectiveness of the training by conducting assessments and surveys (More on this ahead in “Measuring the success of your Cyber Hygiene training program”.
Continually update the training. Cyber threats and risks are constantly evolving. The training program must be continually updated to keep up with the latest threats and risks. This applies to all parts of cybersecurity equally. Your cybersecurity posture should never be static, there should always be some part of your cybersecurity program that is under review and/or being updated to meet today’s challenges.
The training program should be tailored to the specific needs of your organization. It should include a mix of cybersecurity awareness and skills training, as well as hands-on exercises and simulations. The training should be delivered in a way that engages employees and encourages them to take an active role in maintaining cyber hygiene.
Recognizing social engineering attacks training
Social engineering attacks are a significant threat to organizations and involve manipulating individuals to gain access to information systems or networks. These attacks can be challenging to detect and prevent. Cybercriminals are becoming ever more sophisticated and better at doing research to better target their victims. Additionally, artificial intelligence chat bots such as ChatGPT are helping cybercriminals achieve much more believable correspondence since the days of the Nigerian Prince email scams. Training employees to recognize and respond to social engineering attacks is essential for maintaining cyber hygiene.
Training should cover common social engineering tactics, such as phishing emails and pretexting. Employees should be able to identify suspicious emails and know what to do if they receive one. They should also understand the importance of verifying the identity of individuals requesting access to sensitive information.
Authentication best practices training
Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of a user and/or device and is another essential component towards maintaining the security of your information systems and networks. Training employees on authentication best practices, such as using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, is critical for maintaining cyber hygiene.
Employees should understand the importance of using strong passwords and avoiding password reuse & sharing. This is the eternal struggle between ease of use and security needs. Humans have always understood the benefits of working smarter - not harder. Unfortunately, for cybersecurity this means we like to remember one password and not rack our brains trying to remember which of the complicated and convoluted passwords we created for which account. Paired with our innate ability to conflate personal and professional accounts makes for a maelstrom of security woes when a personal account is compromised. Using password managers are a good way to manage multiple complicated passwords while still only needing to remember just one. The use of multi-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security to their accounts is equally as important.
Data handling best practices training
Data handling best practices are essential for maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information. Employees must understand how to handle data securely and know what to do if they encounter a data breach.
Training should cover topics such as data classification, data storage, and data transmission. Employees should know how to classify data according to its sensitivity level and understand how to store and transmit data securely.
Causes of unintentional data exposure training
Unintentional data exposure is a common cause of data breaches. Employees must understand how unintentional data exposure can occur and know how to prevent it. Training should cover topics such as email security, file sharing, and social media.
Employees should know how to use email securely, including how to recognize and respond to phishing emails. They should also understand the risks of file sharing and social media and know how to use these tools securely.
Dangers of connecting to and transmitting data over insecure networks
Connecting to and transmitting data over insecure networks can leave an organization vulnerable to cyber threats. Employees must understand the risks of connecting to and transmitting data over insecure networks and know how to do so securely. Training should cover topics such as network security, virtual private networks (VPNs), and wireless security.
Employees should know how to connect to networks securely and understand the importance of using VPNs when working remotely. Every couple of years a new report is released on how public Wi-Fi spots are compromised and sensitive data is stolen. The reason these reports occur regularly because these breaches continue to occur. Employees should understand the risks of using public Wi-Fi and how to use wireless networks securely. VPNs are low cost and relatively easy to deploy for end users. They create a protected (encrypted) pipeline of information on an otherwise unprotected public network and protect your communications.
Recognizing and reporting security incidents training
Reporting security incidents is essential for maintaining cyber hygiene. Employees must know how to recognize security incidents and know what to do if they encounter one. Training should cover topics such as incident response, incident reporting, and incident management.
Employees should know how to report security incidents to the appropriate personnel and understand the importance of reporting incidents promptly. They should also understand their role in incident management and know how to assist in the resolution of incidents. This type of training instantaneously makes employees cybersecurity assets instead of potential liabilities. While this also can create an influx of false positive reports, it will simultaneously provide actionable reports when they prove to be correct.
Another important facet of security incident reporting is making employees comfortable in making these reports. Employees cannot be punished or ostracized for reporting a security incident. If they live in an environment of fear, they may never report an incident in the first place. Employees must feel emboldened to not just report, but admit to making a mistake. Only then will your organizations security be a priority.
Identifying and reporting if enterprise assets are missing security updates
Missing security updates can leave an organization vulnerable to cyber threats. Employees must know how to identify missing security updates and know who to notify if they encounter one. Training should cover topics such as software updates, patch management, and vulnerability management.
Employees should know how to check for software updates and understand the importance of keeping software up to date. They should also know how to report missing security updates to the appropriate personnel.
Measuring the success of your Cyber Hygiene training program
Measuring the success of your cyber hygiene training program is essential to ensure that it is effective. Measuring success can help identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to the training program. Metrics such as employee participation, performance on assessments, and reduction in security incidents can be used to measure success. Here are some metrics to measure:
Number of employees trained
Employee satisfaction with the training
Number of security incidents reported
Reduction in security incidents
Improvement in compliance with regulatory requirements
Regular assessments can also be used to measure the effectiveness of the training program. Assessments can help identify areas where employees need additional training and ensure that the training program is meeting the needs of the organization.
Cyber hygiene is an essential building block for the security of an organization's information systems and networks. Every employee in an organization has a role to play in maintaining cyber hygiene. By implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity awareness training program, organizations can ensure that employees have the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent cyber threats. Working with a cybersecurity partner can help organizations develop a comprehensive cybersecurity program that includes the necessary services and tools. Quantum Vigilance is here to help you and your business on your cybersecurity journey. We will assess your cyber risk and tailor a cybersecurity program that meets your specific needs. Our QvCISOs (Quantum Virtual Chief Information Security Officers) will always provide cybersecurity guidance you and your team members will understand while making business objectives a priority. Contact Quantum Vigilance today to help your organization build out an effective cybersecurity program.