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7 Key Steps To Creating A Security Awareness Program

With human error now being a top concern amongst businesses, security awareness training is starting to evolve. But what key steps can you take when getting your program off the ground?

So you might be looking to implement an effective cyber security awareness program for your users, or maybe you're just looking to improve your efforts to date. Either way, there are some vital steps that you need to take in order to make sure your hard work doesn't fail at the first hurdle.

These seven steps will give you some of the fundamentals of creating and executing a successful security awareness program.

Gain support from the C-suite

We know… we’re not exactly starting you off with an easy one here. But gaining support from the senior team will give you plenty of future ROI as you venture towards creating your program - ultimately, increasing the level of freedom, company-wide support, and budget for your project.

It may sound like a difficult task, but there are certainly ways around these obstacles. For instance, clearly highlight the repercussions of not supporting a security awareness training program - and there’s plenty of those to choose from. After all, demonstrating your business’s efforts in security awareness is a must for compliance, not to mention a vital step for avoiding the financial and reputational disasters that arise in the wake of a breach!

Long story short - make life easier for yourself by educating your board before you educate your users.

Cover relevant topics

Cyber security breaches are making headlines now more than ever. After huge-scale attacks like WannaCry and Petya on organisations and institutes such as the NHS, people who have never previously batted an eyelid are now taking notice. Although negative, the high profile attacks can now be used to your advantage.

Making regular use of these attacks to demonstrate the relevance of your efforts can help motivate users to follow the advice of the program. As smaller breaches rarely tend to make the news, it’s likely you’ll have to use examples of some of the big fish in the news. But there’s plenty of reports and figures of cyber attacks on SMEs to draw on (if you haven't already, sign up to our free weekly roundup of cybersecurity news, breaches and latest industry reports to keep yourself and your users up-to-date).

Get involved with other departments

“Cyber security? That’s a problem for the IT department”... For IT security professionals, this statement is enough to make your stomach turn. Not only is cyber security not just a problem for the IT department, it’s undoubtedly the responsibility of all departments in your organisation.

From finance and accounting, to HR and marketing, gaining support is another key step to ensuring your awareness program doesn't fall flat on its face. As covered in step one, already having the support of the C-suite can significantly boost this effort.

Some departments can even make security awareness efforts mandatory. For example, the legal and compliance departments carry a great deal of influence throughout the organisation and can make security awareness a required component of other processes, such as new hire indoctrination.

Avoid being the department of “no”

There’s always going to be certain things that employees just aren’t allowed to do. But too often, security departments seem to focus too much on telling people what they shouldn’t do - rather than informing them how they can safely do things.

A good example is when employees use social media in the workplace. Trying to stop people accessing social media throughout their day is near impossible, especially amongst the millennial workforce. Instead, teaching them to use social media safely is far more effective.


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Don’t shy away from metrics

One of the key factors of having an awareness program is being able to measure just how successful your efforts have been. This is something that many training approaches have lacked, with many businesses choosing to inject waves of information to their users once per year, and simply hoping that it sticks for the next 12 or so months.

Past ways of gathering metrics have included surveying employees and regularly examining security-related incidents reported to the support desk. But, with an increasingly diverse range of IT knowledge amongst users, not mention the growing variety of threats they’re facing, smarter ways of monitoring progress are needed.

Phishing simulation tools are a perfect example and can be used both before your awareness training begins, and after a specific end date. Also, simply handing out surveys to employees is an ineffective way of gaining a true idea of awareness levels. Instead, opt for regular eLearning modules and questionnaires that can be completed at the convenience of the employees - rather than force feeding a ton of information. Gap analysis tools are also a great way of finding the security awareness level of your employees before their training starts.

Reward your learners

Now your employees are (hopefully) improving their security awareness, it’s time to incentivise. Employees who demonstrate behaviour, like reporting phishing emails, should receive some level of reward.

Of course, depending on the number of end users you have, this could be a tad difficult. But if possible, find as many ways as you can for users to demonstrate good behaviours, and create an appropriate reward structure.

You need a comprehensive program

Too many security awareness programs are guilty of relying on one aspect of training, rather than incorporating a variety of tools. Some businesses opt solely for training modules, while others rely on poster campaigns or phishing simulations.

The most successful programs ultimately come down to those that demonstrate a comprehensive effort. Also, content should be far from generically shared. After all, businesses are more diverse than ever in their demographic, with people having different learning preferences.


When properly executed, your awareness program can truly educate your employees and potentially save your organisation from the damaging grasp of a security breach. There key steps to follow, but the list is far from exhaustive.

If you’re serious about educating your end users on the inevitable risks they face, then feel free to give our security awareness training program a try here. This free trial will give you an opportunity to really see how a gap analysis tool, eLearning modules, and simulated phishing attacks all combine to create an all-rounded educational platform for your users.

Feel free to get some more info on the importance of security awareness training here.