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Empowering Your Human Firewall through Training

Businesses today largely acknowledge the risks posed by cyber threats. Organizations recognize the importance of effective firewall defenses and anti-virus measures, yet many SMBs fail to respond to one of the biggest dangers facing their digital systems: their end users.

Poorly informed end users can act as an open door to attackers, allowing them to sidestep the technical security measures you’ve invested so much time and money in. You naturally trust your employees to act in your business’s best interests; you have faith that they’ll handle your data responsibly, but would they know how to identify an elaborately crafted phishing scam? Do they understand the risks of clicking on unverified links? Are they aware of the dangers posed by email attachments from unknown sources?

Cybersecurity awareness training is a strategy that helps businesses mitigate user-related security risks. An effective training program will convey the importance of cybersecurity best practices, enable employees to spot common threats they’re likely to encounter, and help staff understand how certain actions can undermine your business’s security posture.

Ultimately, cybersecurity is a team effort, requiring diligent adherence to security policies by everyone in your organization. Cybersecurity awareness training helps to instil this culture of “cyber responsibility,” by giving employees the skills they need to function as an integral part of your cybersecurity framework.

Coastal Computer Consulting – Managed IT Services for Southeast Businesses

From our home in Brunswick, Coastal Computer Consulting provides IT support, managed cybersecurity, and network services to SMBs across the Southeast. We strive to deliver the secure, reliable, and fully-optimized IT infrastructure our customers deserve, developing custom solutions that deliver measurable strategic value.

In recent years, the cyber threat landscape has become far more hostile. Criminals have become more organized, professional, and advanced in their methods, and have become increasingly proficient at exploiting poor employee cybersecurity awareness. In this blog, we want to provide a short guide to cybersecurity awareness training, explaining why it’s never been more important, and the benefits your business can unlock by implementing a comprehensive training program.

User Error is a Leading Cause of Cyber Breach Incidents

When you bring to mind the clichéd image of a cybercriminal, you probably imagine a skilled hacker in a darkened room, using advanced techniques to force their way into corporate networks. While this type of criminal does exist, the majority of cyberattacks are more primitive in nature. Many leverage acts of deception to convince users to disclose compromising information, grant access to critical systems, or to make a direct payment to the attacker. Attackers may manipulate end users for an immediate reward, or they may exploit poor threat awareness to gain a foothold in the network for the purpose of carrying out a more damaging attack further down the line.

Whatever an attacker’s motivations, poorly trained users can often act as unwitting accomplices in their malicious schemes through carelessness or a lack of knowledge. Here are some stats that illustrate the scale of the cybersecurity threat posed by user error:

  • Employee mistakes are a contributing factor in 88% of data breach incidents according to a study by security firm Tessian.
  • In 2022, there were 300,497 phishing victims nationwide, resulting in losses totalling over $52 million.
  • Phishing is the single most prolific cyber threat, accounting for nearly 36% of US data breaches according to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Report.
  • The same report found that 82% of breaches occurred either as a result of error, stolen credentials, phishing attacks, or data misuse.

5 Ways Attackers Exploit Poor Threat Awareness

Attackers use a range of techniques to exploit poor threat awareness to infiltrate business IT networks. Here are 5 ways criminals do this:

Phishing Attacks

In phishing attacks, criminals typically pose as trusted individuals or entities, including colleagues, suppliers, service providers, and banks. Attackers use phishing for a variety of purposes, including to:

  • Commit Fraud: Attackers may steal sensitive financial information with the aim of committing fraud, including credit card numbers, bank account details, or login credentials for online banking accounts.
  • Perpetrate Identity Theft: Criminals seek access to social security numbers, addresses, and birthdates in order to impersonate victims and commit identity theft.
  • Distribute Malware: Attackers often use phishing emails as a launchpad for malware attacks by concealing malware within email attachments and using links to lure victims to infected websites.
  • Conduct Hostile Espionage: Attackers sometimes look for corporate information, trade secrets, or intellectual property. This information can be used directly by the attacker to gain a competitive advantage, or sold on to rival companies for a financial reward.
  • Perform Extortion: Criminals often use phishing to infect companies with ransomware. Once injected into the target network, ransomware encrypts or exfiltrates files and data. Attackers often threaten to delete or release compromising information unless a ransom is paid by a specified deadline.

Users that lack sufficient training may fail to identify the tell-tale signs of phishing attacks, and be more susceptible to the scammers’ persuasive tactics.

Malicious Links and Downloads

Attackers use malicious links and downloads for a range of nefarious aims, including to infect devices with malware, harvest account credentials, steal data, and commit fraud.

Employees with poor threat awareness may open attachments, download files, and click on links without first verifying that the sender or origin is legitimate, exposing their device (and the wider network) to a range of potential cyber threats.

Password Hacking

Attackers leverage various tools and techniques to exploit weak account credentials and poor authentication protocols. Brute force attacks, dictionary attacks, credential stuffing, and even basic guesswork are just some of the methods used to hijack user accounts and compromise the sensitive data held within them. Employees that fail to observe good password hygiene may use basic passwords that are easy to guess, use the same password across multiple accounts, or share their passwords with others, increasing the chance of credential theft and a subsequent data breach.


Public Wi-Fi Threats

Cybercriminals exploit public Wi-Fi connections in a number of ways to eavesdrop on sensitive conversations and gain access to critical information. One way they achieve this is through Wi-Fi spoofing, whereby an attacker will set up a rogue hotspot that mimics a legitimate public network, such as that found in a coffee shop, college, or airport. Alternatively, an attacker may use a range of technical methods to intercept data transiting across poorly secure wireless networks, such as Wi-Fi sniffing and Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks.

Employees with poor threat awareness may not account for the risks inherent in connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, and may fail to consider the security protocols and legitimacy of the networks they connect to.

Removable Media Threats

Removable storage devices, such as flash drives and SD cards, can pose a significant threat to network security in the absence of the proper precautions. Attackers have been known to distribute malware-infected storage devices, either by making them available in public places or sending them to target individuals. Occasionally, devices simply become infected with malware over time as they pass between devices which may be subject to varying degrees of cybersecurity protection. Some viruses are even primed to replicate onto removable devices when connected, increasing their transmissibility.

Employees that aren’t aware of the risks posed by removable media may be less discerning about the devices they connect to the workstation, leading to malware infiltration through devices that aren’t screened for threats.


Invest In Your Success – The Benefits of Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Experts agree that cybersecurity awareness training is the single most impactful investment organizations can make to improve their security posture. Invest in a training program that familiarizes staff with the key cybersecurity risk areas we’ve talked about, and incorporates test exercises or simulations to ensure that staff know how to use their newly acquired knowledge in practice.

A comprehensive training program that’s available at every level of your business will provide a myriad of benefits, both in the long, and short term. Some of these benefits include:

Better Protection for Sensitive Information

Training will help staff understand their duties in terms of ensuring the confidentiality, security, and integrity of sensitive information. They’ll be better able to identify protected categories of information, including those that demand tighter access restrictions and security controls. Training should educate staff on data handling best practices and aim to familiarize them with the threats information can be exposed to across its lifecycle. Cybersecurity awareness training will help you keep your data safe from unauthorized access and misuse, and help you meet your compliance obligations.

Avoid Breach-related Costs

Data breaches can be financially damaging for SMBs, with costs manifesting in the form of lost revenue, non-compliance penalties, legal fees, ransom payments, and post-incident recovery activities. By giving employees the skills they need to spot, inhibit, and report potential security threats, you’ll lower your business’s risk profile and avoid the crippling losses that cyber breaches can incur.

A More Productive Workplace

Security incidents often require systems to be shut down and isolated in order to contain and nullify the threat, and conduct a post breach investigation. This can be a time-consuming undertaking that directs staff away from strategically valuable activities that move your business forward. By reducing the likelihood of security incidents, cybersecurity training gives your technical team more time to focus on productive endeavors that deliver value for your business.

Reinforce Trust

Reputation and trust are vital elements in the success and growth of any small to mid-sized business. Even a small security event with a limited impact could severely erode the foundation of trust you’ve built up over the years, potentially resulting in lost revenue and reduced confidence among both prospective and existing customers. Cybersecurity awareness training can help you reinforce trust and defend your reputation by reducing the chance of a reputationally damaging security incident. It will also serve as evidence of your commitment to cybersecurity excellence, inspiring confidence in existing customers and prospects alike.

Access Better Cyber Insurance Terms

Cyber insurance companies are increasingly looking for evidence of complete and effective cybersecurity awareness training as part of their eligibility assessment and underwriting process. Insurers want to see:

  • High levels of employee participation in training.
  • Frequent training sessions that reflect recent and emerging threats.
  • Training content that is tailored to reflect business operations.
  • Evaluation mechanisms that aim to determine the training’s success, such as gathering feedback, or conducting tests or simulations.

By establishing and implementing employee cybersecurity training and demonstrating a proactive and committed approach to cyber risk mitigation, you’ll be better positioned to access better cyber insurance terms and coverage options.

In Summary

As cybersecurity technologies have become more potent, many cybercriminals have shifted their focus to end users. Employees that lack threat awareness and cyber hygiene training can open the door to attackers, leaving sensitive information exposed, and corporate IT systems vulnerable to malware infection, and a range of other threats.

Incorporating employees into your business’s cybersecurity strategy has therefore never been more important. Cybersecurity awareness training transforms users from a potential liability into one of your greatest cybersecurity assets, giving staff the knowledge they need to identify and inhibit common threats, and interact with your digital systems responsibly and securely.

Coastal IT Support in Southeast, Brunswick

Ready to elevate your business in the Southeast, particularly in Brunswick, with top-tier IT support? Look no further than Coastal IT Support Southeast!

Managing IT infrastructure complexities can be daunting and detract from your core business goals. That’s where Coastal’s expertise in providing exceptional IT support in Brunswick, Southeast, becomes indispensable. With our wealth of experience and tailored solutions designed for the Brunswick area, we seamlessly address all your IT needs, allowing you to focus on driving success for your business. Coastal IT Support Southeast is dedicated to empowering and securing your business in Brunswick and throughout the Southeast!

Contact us today and begin your journey towards enhanced efficiency and accelerated growth in the region.

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