Automating Security Training

Cyber threats used to be less threatening. While nobody wants their customers' credit card numbers stolen in a data breach, or to see a deranged manifesto plastered over their company website, such incidents can almost seem quaint compared to ransomware attacks that bring all of your critical information systems to a dead halt.

The frequency of these attacks increased more than 150% in the U.S. last year, and in 2021 their global cost is expected to reach $20 billion. Effective, comprehensive security training is essential to mitigating these threats, many of which originate with low-profile phishing or malware attacks to get a foot in the door—attacks that can target anyone who works in your organization.

A company's employees are the front line of defense against cyberattacks, and canned training videos and short quizzes are rarely sufficient to prepare them for this responsibility. The trouble with good training is that it takes not just expertise but time and other resources. Companies that are trying to maximize efficiency and minimize costs sometimes struggle with delivering security training commensurate with the threats they're actually facing.

According to Gartner®, many resource-constrained organizations, specifically midsize enterprises, struggle to provide even basic security awareness training to their users, let alone develop a sophisticated, multichannel, context-specific, and employee-centric enterprise security awareness program.*

One way to overcome this challenge without hiring professional services or leaning harder on your existing IT staff is to employ automation in security training.

What is Training Automation?

Though the word "automation" was not coined until 1947 by Ford Motor Company to describe the use of automatic devices in the company's production lines, today it is one of the most widely used terms in the tech industry. As a buzzword, "automation" really gets around. It suggests a solution that will handle your problems without requiring you to constantly monitor and futz with it, but in a very technical sense, every software program ever written involves some element of automation. Say you've got a security training solution that performs some tasks automatically, like sending out training reminders or test emails on a preset schedule. Is this training automation?

Not in any meaningful sense. It's just doing the bare minimum of what any training software should do, and in that sense is about as automated—and intelligent—as an alarm clock. True automation needs to be about more than just putting tasks on a timer.

Adaptive, Hands-On Training Makes All the Difference

If you're rolling out an upgrade to your Accounts Payable software, you can get away with herding everybody into a room, making them watch a video about it, and handing out a quiz afterward to make sure they were paying attention. When the purpose of the training is to prevent data breaches, ransomware attacks, and other serious threats, this isn't enough.

The better solution is hands-on training that provides practice on what to do when an actual cyberattack manifests, and ideally, it will also take into account the knowledge level and behavioral profile of the individual receiving the training. Savvy users might benefit from being educated and tested on subtle, novel approaches, while some users are just "serial clickers" who might need to retake Phishing 101 a few times before they unlearn their bad habits.

Of course, that assumes you know which users are which—and automation can help you figure that out by engaging in continuous data analysis as users work their way through the training program.

Semi-automated solutions can compensate for their shortcomings by offering lots of manual configuration options, but the time it takes to set these up correctly reduces the potential gains in efficiency, especially when things start scaling up. The path to real optimization always runs through true automation, which is essential for making training scalable. Only then can you optimize to achieve efficiency at scale.

Automating CyberSecurity Training
Image credit: CybeReady

How to Use Automation in Cybersecurity Training to Minimize Risk

Every organization has 'High-Risk Employees' who jeopardize its stability. We've found that one out of every five people within an organization may fall under this high-risk category. They might be absolute rock star employees in every other sense, but for some reason, they're just compelled to click the links in weird emails that they shouldn't even have opened. Maybe it's something about the way they're wired, but usually, training and education are huge factors. These employees just lack the awareness of how dangerous phishing attacks can be and how to identify them reliably.

These are the people who need security training the most, and they need it to be effective.

CybeReady's solution for this is a fully-automated platform, powered by machine learning technology, which mitigates the risks from human error through an educational approach that provides frequent, adaptive, engaging training on a continuous basis.

For security teams that run lean, the complexity required to run such a training program is almost impossible to implement without a truly automated solution that has expert knowledge baked into the software.

CybeReady works by following a continuous training methodology that generates enough data to differentiate between users who occasionally get taken in by phishing emails and those who habitually click on dangerous links. The latter group requires a little extra care and attention, and by segmenting trainees according to their risk level, you can deliver targeted training that meets the trainee at their precise level of knowledge and educates them with individualized lessons and simulations that decrease their risky behaviors.

Automating CyberSecurity Training

Here are a few of the principles CybeReady deploys to achieve measurable training progress:

  • Just-in-Time Learning: When an employee clicks on a malicious email, CybeReady seizes the "golden moment" to push a pop-up learning page that points out the red flags they missed.
  • Timely Reminders: To reinforce the training and help them outgrow their bad habits, high-risk employees are sent reminders at strategic intervals.
  • Adaptive Difficulty Levels: Some simulated phishing emails are obvious and easy to spot, others are very sneaky. Evaluations of past performance can be used to select simulations that will provide just the right level of challenge for the recipient.
  • Adjusted Learning Frequency: High-risk employees receive simulated phishing emails more frequently. When they get better at identifying them and can be moved back down to a lower risk category, the frequency is adjusted back to normal levels.

Final Thoughts

In today's threat environment, strong cybersecurity is critical. True automation in your security training systems can significantly bolster your defenses by efficiently marshaling resources toward the employees at the highest risk for falling victim to a cyberattack, without requiring you to hire a professional training team or force your IT staff to become teachers on the side.

CybeReady's machine learning solution has the expertise, analytics, and training methodologies built right in, so when the hackers and phishers start showing up you can feel confident that they won't find any easy targets amongst a staff armed with knowledge from a state-of-the-art, data-driven, fully adaptive, and truly automated training program.

Get started with CybeReady's training program, tailored for lean security teams

*Source: Gartner, "Market Guide for Security Awareness Computer-Based Training," Richard Addiscott, Claude Mandy, William Candrick, 26 July 2021. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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