Cyber Security Culture

Audit Strategies for Effective Security Awareness Training

Cyber security training is an integral part of a comprehensive security program. But it’s also a significant investment as the content needs to be continuously updated and tailored to unique audiences. The best way to maximize your investment is to continuously measure its effectiveness and identify gaps that need to be worked on.

This article will explore the value of auditing your security training program and how you can do so in four steps.

How Does Proper Auditing Help Measure the Effectiveness of Awareness Training and Improve Cyber Security Culture?

In business, it’s difficult to justify significant spending without data to back up the benefits and effects of the investment. When it comes to security awareness training (SAT), security leaders can say, “88% of data breaches are caused by human error. We need an SAT program to address this critical risk.”

That’s a strong argument, but how do you know that the training you provide is actually positively impacting employee behavior and overall cyber security culture? To do that, you need effective ways to measure staff awareness training and constantly refine your approach based on your findings and feedback.

Auditing will not only help you improve your training program but also give you more leverage in the boardroom, as you will now possess tangible evidence of the program’s impact.

Which Metrics Should You Consider for Auditing Security Awareness Training?

The great thing about auditing is that you have complete freedom when selecting your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The metrics you choose should largely depend on the goals you’ve set when implementing your SAT program. For example, if you aim to reduce interaction with phishing emails, you can prioritize KPIs like open rates for phishing emails or the time employees take to report them.

Like your training program, you can also continually refine the metrics you use to track the most relevant data. Here are some metrics that will always be relevant and that you can use to get started:

  • Training completion rates: The percentage of employees who completed the SAT. Strong security policies can improve this metric.
  • Behavioral change indicators: Tangible changes in employee behavior, such as using stronger passwords or enabling 2FA.
  • Incident reporting rate: The frequency at which employees report potential security threats or incidents.
  • Employee feedback: There’s no better way to find what works and what doesn’t than to ask the people who’ve undergone the staff awareness training.

What are the Four Steps in Designing Fruitful Security Awareness Training Audits?

  1. Define Clear Objectives and Scope – Start by clearly defining what you aim to achieve with the audit. Your objectives could be based on things that employees have historically struggled with, such as opening phishing emails that lead to security incidents or strengthening organizational cyber security culture. The scope should help focus the audit on areas that will provide the most valuable insights.
  2. Select Relevant Metrics and KPIs – Based on the audit objectives, identify which metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will best measure the success of the SAT program. These could include training completion rates, incident reporting rates, changes in security incident numbers, or employee behavior changes. Ensure these metrics are measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  3. Gather and Analyze Data – Collect data related to the selected metrics and KPIs. Several methods exist, including using software tools, conducting interviews and surveys, or examining training completion and assessment scores. Analyze this data to identify trends, strengths, and areas for improvement within the SAT program.
  4. Report Findings and Implement Recommendations – Assemble the collected data into a detailed report that objectively evaluates the SAT program’s performance. The document should emphasize the program’s achievements and pinpoint areas for improvement. With these insights, formulate practical suggestions for refining the SAT program. This may include revising the educational material, adopting new instructional approaches, or concentrating on particular aspects employees struggled with.

Improving SAT With Audits: A Case Study

Finally, let’s look at a practical example of how auditing helped a mid-sized financial institution transform its security awareness efforts.

The problem: The organization was facing an uptick in phishing attempts and decided to audit its existing SAT program to find weaknesses and areas for improvement.

The result: The audit showed that while training completion rates were high, employees didn’t find it engaging, resulting in low information retention.

The outcome: Based on this information, the financial institution decided to revamp the training content. They introduced interactive elements and gamified learning experiences, including varied phishing simulations, to improve engagement.

These changes resulted in significant improvements in employee behavior and overall cyber security culture, as indicated by the measured KPIs.

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