It’s a recognized truth that the majority of cybersecurity breaches are caused by staff. No matter how tightly you guard your digital files and online networks, unfortunately, humans have been proven time and time again to be the weakest link when it comes to the dangers that lurk online. 

However, it doesn’t need to be this way. By just spending a few hours educating your staff, you can greatly mitigate their risks, causing a breach in your cyber defenses. Below are just a few tips for educating your workforce in cybersecurity and increasing their knowledge of the more common threats that exist online. 

Let your staff know the importance of complex passwords

One of the most common ways hackers gain access to a network is through easy to guess, weak, or multiple-use passwords. Nonetheless, if your staff aren’t aware of the dangers, you can’t really blame them if they compromise your network through bad user credentials. 

To reduce the risk of compromised passes, you should insist staff use only alphanumeric passwords and change them regularly (once a month should, in most cases, suffice). You should also make sure they don’t use the same password for multiple accounts – for example, using the same pass for your network as they use for Gmail, Facebook, etc. 

As passwords are such a common route into networks for hackers, it would also be wise to seek extra advice on Account Takeover (ATO) prevention from a network security specialist.

Ensure your staff are aware of just how frequently cyberattacks happen

The vast majority of online security breaches go unreported – partly because firms aren’t overly keen to advertise the fact their (and, potentially, their clients’,) data has been compromised. However, even at conservative estimates, it’s suggested around two-thirds of all Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) have fallen victim to a cyberattack in the last 12 months. Worse yet, there’s a commonly held (yet thoroughly mistaken) belief among SMEs that they’re in some way too small, their revenue too insignificant, or their company is just too unimportant to be a worthwhile target for hackers. 

Actually, the total opposite is true, and cybercriminals have increasingly turned their attention to SMEs over the last few years. The somewhat lax and lazy approach taken by many smaller firms makes them the ideal picking ground for hackers compared to larger, better-prepared firms who invest properly in their online protection. If you – or your staff – are still of the opinion your firm is under the hackers’ radar, it’s time to get yourself better educated. 

Invest in regular staff training

The speed at which hackers move these days means new threats appear monthly – if not daily – so it’s no longer enough to just offer sporadic or annual online security training. Rather, you should keep your staff regularly informed on emerging risks and ensure they’re properly educated.

You should also resist the temptation to automatically blame a staff member if they cause a security problem. Instead of just apportioning responsibility to the employee, take a step back and try to form a more impartial view of your security procedures. Rather than viewing the employee as being at fault, if you look at things differently, you’ll more likely see it was your security standards or training provision that was to blame.

Remove the culture of blame and instead encourage communication

Sure, training your staff is important, but there will still likely come a time when a team member is unsure whether to open a sketchy-looking email or attachment. In line with the above point about looking at your organization’s culture impartially, you should also make sure your staff has the confidence to ask for support if they have doubts. This may involve a shift change in how you run your firm and the level of openness that’s endemic in your company, but you will soon reap the benefits if your staff have the confidence to seek advice. 

Get everyone on board

Depending on the size of your firm, you’ll need to ensure everyone’s on the same page when it comes to the value of training and educating staff. There’s little point in one department enforcing rigorous security provisions if another flagrantly ignores the rules. 

Also, it’s vital to get support from the top. As with most aspects of running a company, change has to come from above and trickle down through the various layers of a firm. For example, if you have trouble convincing bosses of the value of adequate cybersecurity training, point them to this page where they can learn the catastrophic damage online breaches cause firms annually. 

Make sure staff know the tell-tale signs

Over the last few years, phishing attacks have become one of the most popular means of compromising accounts and gaining network access for hackers. However, just some basic training will help your staff recognize the tell-tale signs of phishing attempts and help save your firm from falling victim to these – and other – forms of social engineering attacks.