What Is Cyber Security Awareness?

Cyber security awareness means different things to different people. To end-users in your organization, it means being mindful of the risks they can introduce when they browse the web, check email and interact online. For a company’s IT professionals, it involves being hyper-aware of the security threats their networks face, management of data and permissions and an understanding of regulations.

For business leaders, its ensuring that everyone recognizes cybersecurity as an essential part of their role and empowering individuals with the relevant information they need to remain safe online both at work and in a remote setting. It also encompasses training and a host of best practices that drive lasting behavior change. Cybersecurity security awareness is without doubt one of the single most important elements in your company’s overall business strategy and should be treated as a foundational cornerstone of your corporate culture.

Why is Cyber Security Awareness Important?

As businesses become more vulnerable to cyber threats due to their increasing reliance on the Internet, cyber risk has evolved from a technology issue to a multi-faceted organizational concern. And comprehensive cyber awareness is the only solution that can possibly guide businesses through the multitude of cyber risks they could encounter along today’s digital danger spectrum.

Cyber awareness is critical because cybercrime is through the roof, as demonstrated by the $4.2 billion in money damages reported to the FBI’s cybercrime reporting mechanism in 2020, up from $3 billion in 2015. Cybercrime, is also expensive and increasingly difficult to detect and repair. It exposes corporations — and corporate leadership — to a wide swath of liability claims from employees, shareholders, and other third parties, and can result in regulatory and even criminal sanctions. It does irreparable harm to a company’s reputation and consumer relations. And cybercrime threatens every conceivable kind of digital data, from confidential personal and trade information to national security secrets. A carefully crafted and constantly augmented hyper awareness about cyber security is part of a sound business strategy that can help to guarantee that a company is following the law, remaining competitive, and keeping its doors open.

What is a Cyber Security Awareness Training?

Cyber security awareness training at its most basic is the strategic approach that IT and security experts use to prevent and mitigate user risk. But in practice, cyber security awareness training is many things. It can encompass a wide variety of methods, from a formal training program that takes place during onboarding or at regular intervals, to monthly “tips and tricks” emails. Most effective cyber security awareness training is targeted to a company’s individuals and the roles they fill and teaches specifics about cyber threats and how to prevent or respond to them.

Cyber awareness training may also combine a carrot and stick approach; these programs reward employees who recognize and report potential scams while also imposing additional training and other discipline on employees who fail to buy into the idea that cybersecurity is one of their own job responsibilities.

A well-rounded cyber security awareness program should at a minimum include information about:

  • General awareness about cyber threats — which explains the specific kinds of threats employees in different roles might come across, with a focus on the high-impact events like data breaches, phishing, and social engineering attacks
  • Company policy and best practices — which identifies company resources, tools, and software applications and how to incorporate these into daily work habits
  • Reporting and responses — which outlines specific legal requirements and company policies about the timing and extent of consumer and government notifications, as well as steps in response to an actual event
  • Data classification — which teaches how to handle confidential data and may also incorporate a company’s data retention policies
  • Foundational technologies and safety protocols — which provides employees with all resources they need to develop an understanding about the basic components of a security infrastructure
  • Compliance — which specifies the details and requirements for security and privacy regulatory frameworks, such as GDPR and HIPAA
  • Common sense tactics — which help all employees to protect themselves and the company from cyberattacks by providing a blueprint for staying vigilant such as maintaining good cyber hygiene through credential managing, software updates, and regular data backup and developing strong cyber resilience

These programs can be implemented in many forms, including gamification training, phishing and cyberattack simulation exercises, interactive training with examples and quiz questions, videos/apps with live-action or real-life scenarios that simulate multiple outcomes.

Is a Cyber security Awareness Training Right for my Business?

If your company or its employees rely upon the internet, it will gain benefit and value from cyber security awareness training. This is because the legal, reputational, and financial risk from a cyber event will have a detrimental impact on any computer-based operation, whether the business is a local pharmacy that maintains its customers’ personal and health information or an multi-national conglomerate with ties to foreign governments or the global supply chain. Even a small, home-based business that reaches its customer base via website, social media, or other digital communications would benefit from regular attention to potential cyber threats and a company policy that incorporates training components albeit on a smaller scale.

Cyber Security Awareness FAQs

When is Cyber Security Awareness Month?

Every October, governments, educational institutions, and major organizations across the globe collaborate to commemorate Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This annual campaign raises awareness and helps enterprises protect their critical infrastructure, systems, and global business operations. Cybersecurity Awareness Month was first launched in 2004 by the National Cybersecurity Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a grassroots effort to help Americans remain safe and secure online.

Starting in 2011 the concept of weekly themes during October’s Cyber Security Awareness Month was developed. Themes have included education, cybercrime, law enforcement, mobility, critical infrastructure, and small and medium-sized businesses. The overarching theme for Cybersecurity Awareness Month for 2021 was “Do Your Part, #BeCyberSmart,” which was intended to empower individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace.

Does cyber security insurance help against phishing scams?

Computer fraud comes in many forms, and when it comes to insurance coverage for a resulting loss, no one size fits all. Cyber security insurance may indeed help against phishing scams, but the outcome of a particular claim will depend upon the policy language at issue and the specific circumstances involved.

This means that every hacking incident must be analyzed on its own facts and all available policies — including Crime and Fidelity coverage with a Computer Fraud rider, Professional Liability/Errors & Omissions coverage, Commercial General Liability and Property coverage, plus a separate policy for Cyber Insurance — reviewed for coverage.

You should confer with your financial advisors, an insurance broker like HUB, and an attorney, who are thoroughly versed in the developing insurance market and the latest judicial interpretations of relevant policy language to ensure full protection against all cyber threats, including phishing scams.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is an ultra-targeted method of phishing where a cybercriminal — or spear phisher — poses as a trusted source to convince victims to divulge confidential data, personal information, or other sensitive details.

Spear phishing targets specific individuals or groups within an organization; it typically includes an email and attachment and includes information specific to the target, such as the target’s name and rank within an organization. Typical examples include an email in which the attacker encourages the target to sign an “updated employee handbook.”

Other spear phishing examples are emails that spoof an MS Teams notification, claim to be verifying account activity on GoDaddy, or appear to be sent from the company’s Microsoft File Sharing service. The difference between phishing and spear phishing is primarily a matter of targeting.

Phishing emails are sent to very large numbers of recipients, more or less at random, with the expectation that only a small percentage will respond. Spear phishing, on the other hand, involves emails that are carefully designed to convince a single recipient to respond.

What are the most common types of cyberattacks?

  • There are five main kinds of cyberattacks. These are:
  • Distributed denial of service (DDoS) — an attack to restrict a user from accessing digital resources by flooding the traffic that is used to access the resource via commands to a botnet controller; users are unable to access a server or website, as traffic to that location will be at full capacity.
  • Man in the middle — an attack in which a perpetrator positions himself in a conversation between a user and an application — such as an account holder and her banking institution — either to eavesdrop or to impersonate one of the parties, making it appear as if a normal exchange of information is under way.
  • Email attacks — attacks that are accomplished through:
  • phishing (sending bait in the form of an email that encourages people to share their details)
  • spoofing (sending an email that pretends to come from another person or organization that appears to be a legitimate email) or
  • attachments (image, document, audio or video files sent as an attachment to an email, which the recipient is encouraged to open)
  • Password attacks — attacks to crack or find a password, usually implemented via a:
  • dictionary attack (handling every password that is possible through the dictionary)
  • brute force attack (a time-consuming, trial-and-error method)
  • keylogger attack (a method that records all strokes on a keyboard)
  • shoulder surfing (observing the user’s keyboard by peeking over his shoulder) and
  • rainbow table attack (rainbow tables of precomputed hash values that attackers use to find a user’s password)
  • Malware attacks — attacks that disrupt or damage a computer or system. The three types of malware attacks involve:
  • malware (a malicious program or software)
  • a computer virus (a malicious code that replicates by copying itself to another program or document and changes how a computer works, which requires someone to knowingly or unknowingly spread the infection without the knowledge or permission of a user or system administrator) and
  • worms (standalone programs that run independently and infect systems, which may propagate through network share devices

How can one avoid cybersecurity threats using cyber awareness training?

One can avoid cybersecurity threats using cyber awareness training by focusing on incident-based education, embracing cyber hygiene practices, and helping employees to develop cyber resilience. Incident-based education presents memorable training vignettes that people associate with real-life cyber incident examples and implements practices such as cyberattack simulations, interactive security training, and gamification.

Cyber hygiene, which involves training practices to keep data safe from theft, as well as practices to maintain system health, can also help to avoid cybersecurity threats. Problems such as data loss across physical or cloud storage devices, hacking, misplaced data, and ineffective cybersecurity controls resulting from legacy security software or outdated antiviruses can be addressed by training employees to engage in cyber hygiene practices like regular data backup, careful credentials management, and application of regular software and hardware updates.

Cyber threats can also be avoided by using cyber awareness training to harden a company’s cyber resilience, or ability to anticipate, withstand, recover from, and adapt to cyber attacks and cyber security compromises. Cyber resilience teaches staff to be receptive to and aware of cyber security, to understand its importance, and to implement daily practices in an effort to avoid cybersecurity threats.

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HUB International

HUB International is a leading North American insurance brokerage that provides employee benefits, business, and personal insurance products and services.