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A Fresh Approach to Security Awareness Training

By Scott Bennett

Security awareness education should be two things in order to keep customers protected: interactive and ongoing.

The job of educating your customers and their employees about cybersecurity best practices and emerging threats is never going to be finished. The skills required to identify and stop the spread of malicious emails, attachments, and viruses need to be updated on a regular basis, as the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve.

However, even well-designed education programs can get stale. You don’t want your customers to simply go through the motions of security education without the information really sinking in. Your training must remain engaging, while also ensuring customers don’t lapse back into bad habits. The ultimate goal is to change the culture around cyber security within your customer’s business so that their awareness can evolve right along with the cyber threats you are trying to protect them from.

To make your training initiatives worthwhile, there are a few best practices to follow that can help keep your approach fresh and effective. They are as follows:

Security training can’t be optional.

It should be an integrated part of your onboarding process, as well as a key part of monthly or quarterly reviews. In addition, try using various mediums to provide information. You can mix it up by using e-mail, newsletters, text messages, and voicemails to share updates about emerging threats. Social media posts and tips can also be valuable.

Watch your customers’ backs.

For example, you can conduct monthly dark web scans to search for your customers’ data. I recommend using a phishing simulation tools to see how well your customers are performing against the current threat environment and to create a memorable training experience.

Get executives to buy-in to the importance of training.

Conduct education planning sessions with your customers’ key executives, and IT and security personnel to help develop an education program that will work for that customer’s unique circumstances. These sessions can give you insight into just how seriously your customers and their staff take cybersecurity. Are they still working under the assumption that they are too small to be a target? In that case, the planning session is a good opportunity to educate them about just how vulnerable they are.

Additionally, this planning can help gain buy-in from key executives. Top executives are just as vulnerable to phishing and other attacks as lower-level employees. A security initiative can’t succeed without their participation and support.

Leverage technology to help train and test your customers.

Security awareness tools like Barracuda’s Managed PhishLine can help with these efforts by providing an ongoing cadence of simulations and other exercises. The service also includes reporting that MSPs and their customers can use to identify which employees are most vulnerable (or susceptible) and address their “risky” behavior.

Make training interactive.

PowerPoint presentations about risk aren’t going to do the job, at least not alone. Interactive approaches that not only test employees on the skills they are developing, but also help companies focus their training efforts on the weakest links in their company.

Analyze customer performance to help improve the training effort.

Education platforms and phishing simulation tools gather valuable data that can be used to help both you and your customers  assess their current security posture and help the MSP prove out their value by being able to demonstrate how the education effort is paying off.

These solutions can be combined with e-mail security and monitoring and detection tools that also help illustrate just how big the threat is. How many attacks occurred each quarter? How many were stopped? What types of attack were most common? This helps the MSP further quantify the value they are providing.

Keep the program updated

Change the content and delivery mechanisms periodically to make sure customers remain engaged and pay attention to the training content. Utilize gamification, interactive content, multimedia, and other approaches to keep the customer’s attention. Cyberattacks are constantly changing, evolving, and becoming more effective. Security awareness training should do the same.

Make it personal.

Remind your customers that the good cybersecurity habits they develop at work can also help protect their personal devices and their families. Their parents, spouses, and children are also vulnerable to phishing and other types of attacks and they are more likely to pay attention if you can demonstrate the value of security awareness outside of the office.

With cyberattacks increasing, your customers must be kept up to date on emerging threats and how to prevent employees from inadvertently causing a data breach. By instituting a robust security awareness and training program, you can reduce risk for your customers, while strengthening your relationships with them, and further establishing yourself as a trusted partner they rely on.  


Written by:


Scott Bennett, Director of North American Partner Management, Barracuda MSP
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