As companies increasingly rely on cloud computing for most operations, information security is more important than ever. While not everyone on your team has to be a cybersecurity professional, it’s important to include security awareness training into your organization’s onboarding and ongoing training program.

How effective is security awareness training?

Security awareness training, when done right, can help reduce your organization’s risk of a data breach and withstand the ongoing threat of cybercrime. However, the effectiveness of the training really depends on your company’s ability to educate your employees and ensure vigilance and compliance.

The effectiveness of security awareness training hinges on the size and location of your company. For example, a large company with a significant remote working team is prone to more difficulties because remote employees aren’t necessarily as likely to follow security practices as vigilantly as employees who work in the main office. 

A small company with an in-house team will have the best chance for success in security awareness training, as supervisors and senior management can more closely monitor employees’ adherence to security measures. 

What is the best method for delivering security awareness?

Even if you create in-depth and engaging security awareness training for your organization, the information is unlikely to stick without follow-up training. Rather than holding one full-day training for staff and hoping they retain the information throughout their employment, hold ongoing training that revisits security awareness each month.

One of the most effective training plans includes online 15-minute training updates and refreshers once per month. Along with consistent training, consider testing your employees’ scam-radar by sending out internal phishy emails, also known as simulated phishing. This will help improve your team’s ability to withstand cyberattacks and help keep them on their toes for real-world cybercrime.

In-person training or virtual training can be great for an initial introduction to security awareness, as it will provide an opportunity for participants to ask questions and clarify best practices. Consider holding a live training as the first step in your security awareness training, and develop ongoing online training to keep information fresh for your employees.

What are the key elements of a Security Awareness Training & Education Program?

When developing your security awareness training, first consider the various levels of responsibility within your organization. In the ‘Best Practices for Implementing a Security Awareness Program’ guidebook, the PCI Security Standards Council recommends creating the following tiers for responsibility: All personnel, specialized roles, and management.

All personnel

Security awareness training for all personnel should help employees recognize threats, establish daily security-conscious work habits, and feel comfortable reporting security issues to your IT department or upper management. Of particular importance is awareness of the sensitivity of payment card data.

Specialized roles

Employees with specialized roles in your organization should be trained on how to follow security procedures when handling sensitive information. Along with understanding how procedures work, specialized employees should be able to recognize the associated risks if privileged access is misused. Create additional training programs for specialized roles in your organization that cover more in-depth security awareness details.


The highest level of training is reserved for your organization’s management team. Your management’s security awareness training should include comprehensive company security policy information along with training for how to positively discuss and reinforce the importance of security awareness to staff. Management’s training should include an overall understanding of how different security systems work together within your organization.

Along with designating levels of responsibility, include information about common security threats and social engineering cyberattacks in each training such as phishing, malware, and email security.

  1. Phishing is one of the most insidious and common forms of scams, and can be cleverly disguised, usually in the form of an email. Phishing aims to steal your private information and exploit it, often for financial gain. Phishing is becoming increasingly more complex, with some phishing attacks disguised as internal company emails and thus harder to identify.
  2. Malware, also known as ransomware, is malicious software that makes its way onto your computer, compromising personal information and access. 
  3. Email security issues stem from unprotected accounts (accounts without two-step verification) or from compromised networks.

While these are three common cybercimes, the landscape of cybersecurity is evolving constantly. Ongoing, updated training will help your company learn about new criminal tactics as they arise, helping you maintain a strong security awareness program.