With many businesses now operating a hybrid or work from home model, the challenges of cyber security have never been greater – and investing in cyber security awareness has never been more important. For International Computer Security Day, we take a look at how you can effectively explain the importance of cyber security to your employees.

What is Cyber Security Awareness and why it is important?

Cyber security awareness means the employees of a company being trained in the risks that can leave a business exposed to cyber-attacks, and fully understanding the impact such an attack could have on the business. Not only that, but with the right training, everyone can know the measures to take to minimise the chances of attacks and keep the business safe from harm.

However, explaining cyber security to employees in a way that will create those behaviours isn’t easy. Here, we’ll explain how to make cyber security easy to understand for your teams.

Our tips to help employees understand cyber security easily

1. Make cyber security a central theme of the onboarding process

Our first tip to make employees understand cyber security easily is to talk about it from day one. In fact, we’d suggest you build it into a part of the company’s culture that new starters are onboarded while being briefed, quizzed and trained on cyber security essentials. The first few days an employee spends in a company set the foundation for everything to come, so the better you do this, the better you get at explaining cyber security to employees early, and the more effective your efforts are likely to be.

2. Explain cyber security in plain English

Have you ever asked a mathematician to explain a complex theory only to be met with bamboozling maths language? Or a mechanic to explain what needs fixing on your car only to receive a slew of part names and other jargon? If so, then you’ll realise just how hard it all is to follow. It might sound simple, but one of the ways you can make cyber security easy to understand is to make your language around it also easy to follow. Using plain English just gives your team a better chance of understanding – and caring about – the cyber security basics.

3. Convey some worst-case scenarios should a cyber breach occur

In August 2022 there were 112 publicly disclosed cyber security incidents recorded and reported on by IT governance UK, accounting for over 97 million records being breached. That’s incredibly important for a corporation because, not only does it expose them to danger, having such exploitable networks with sub-standard security also opens them up to enormous fines from security authorities. The highest fine ever given to a company for cyber security reasons went to Didi Global, who were fined 8.026 billion yuan – that’s $1.19 billion, or £1.11 billion! – by the Cyberspace Administration of China. Put in those terms, it’s not difficult to understand the importance of explaining cyber security to employees – especially when you consider that the employees responsible for such a breach are also likely to be out of a job because of it.

4. Explain different categories of possible threats

When explaining cyber security to your employees, it’s also imperative you get across just how many different kinds of threats there are. These can include:

  • Malware: Short for ‘malicious software,’ this often comes from someone clicking a suspect link and downloading software that contains a worm, trojan virus, spyware, adware or ransomware
  • Phishing: When a hacker sends an email pretending to be from a reputable source – perhaps a client, or someone else in the business. By masking their email address, they can get your employees to respond giving away important information like personal details, company passwords, or credit card information
  • Ransomware: A kind of malware that blocks a company’s access to its own network and systems until they pay a specified ransom
  • Social engineering: This can be conducted digitally as a phishing attack, or in person by someone who is asking questions that, on the surface, appear harmless. In fact, it’s a way of manipulating an employee into giving away important security information, like the passcode to a locked door in your company, or sensitive network login information.

5. Teach them the red flags to watch out for

Another handy tip to make employees understand cyber security easily is to give them examples of suspicious activities they can look for that might indicate the beginnings of a threat. For instance:

  • The mouse/trackpad and keyboard no longer working
  • Unexplained device slow-down
  • New browser extensions becoming present that they didn’t give permission to install
  • Odd pop-up windows on start-up or shutdown, or even appearing randomly while they operate the device in normal fashion
  • New program icons appearing on their desktop without warning or reason.

These are some of the more obvious issues you could encounter, however others are unnoticeable to the naked eye, which is why it is important to make sure your employees allow updates and not tamper with the protection measures implemented by your IT department. When in doubt, any suspected issues should be raised with the appropriate person in your organisation.

6. Offer refreshers in an ongoing fashion

Our final tip for explaining cyber security to employees is essentially the opposite side of the coin from point one. It’s one thing to set the expectation early, but for employees to take cyber security seriously it needs to be something you reinforce regularly and make a part of the ongoing conversation between you and your people. At the very least, we’d suggest you schedule annual refresher e-learning deadlines so that your people never forget about the basics and importance of cyber security practices, and are kept up to date on new techniques and warning signs as they become known. This regularity, coupled with the other five tips to make employees understand cyber security easily, will go a long way to helping keep your company safe from cyber threats.

Concerned about your company’s cyber security?

Here at One Beyond, we create enterprise software solutions with a deep focus on keeping your company safe from cyber threats.

To learn more, visit our Application Security Testing Services page or get in touch with us to find out how our solutions could work for you.

We’ve also started to launch our new Cyber Security Review. This bite-sized analysis of some of the most important news from the world of Cyber Security is curated by our expert Cyber Security team, and is designed to help you keep yourself and your business safe from cyber threats. Sign up here to receive this fortnightly newsletter.