Where Digital Meets Human: Letting HR Lead Cybersecurity Training

September 8, 2021
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4 min read

One of my favorite questions to ask when I’m interviewing a business decision-maker is if they are confident in their company’s current defenses. Most people tell me yes. So, I was surprised to read that an IDG Research Services survey commissioned by Insight Enterprises found that 78% of respondents reported that they do not think their organization is sufficiently protected against cyberattacks. The same study found that, as a result, 91% of respondents are increasing their cybersecurity budget in 2021. However, investing dollars in technology and resources only solves a part of the problem. That’s where good cybersecurity training comes in. 

Humans Are the Weak Link

More and more, a cybersecurity budget alone only solves part of the problem. Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Study found that 62% of executives report that employees not complying with data security rules are their greatest threat to cybersecurity. Workplaces need to invest in cybersecurity training in order to create the right culture. That way, everyone at the company feels they are responsible for protecting against attacks. Without this, even companies with the latest tools, a robust budget and top experts are very vulnerable.

How to Use HR in Cybersecurity Training 

The onus to keep people aware of potential breaches often falls on the IT department. However, IT’s areas of expertise are technical information and current trends about cybersecurity. When they alone are responsible for breaches, you’re not fostering a culture of cybersecurity. Instead, the human resources (HR) department which ‘owns’ and has expertise in creating the company culture should take the lead. HR can bring their experience, communication channels and understanding of the employees. And they can use the IT department as subject matter experts as they lead the shift to a cybersecurity culture.

Here are seven ways that HR departments can help provide the training needed to create a culture of cybersecurity:

  1. Talk about the cybersecurity culture during the application process. HR begins creating the work culture with new employees. By focusing on the culture, HR can help determine which potential applicants are a match. It may seem awkward to talk about something as seemingly detail-oriented as cybersecurity training. However, the discussion can also help you separate candidates who are team players from those who feel that areas such as cybersecurity are someone else’s job.
  2. Create a cybersecurity processes and guidelines manual. The first step in good cybersecurity training is to create a formal document outlining best practices and rules. For example, this could lay out rules around personal devices and connectivity requirements for working remotely. You can either create a stand-alone document or a section in the existing employee handbook. While IT has the technical knowledge, creating a policies and procedures handbook is likely not in their skill set. HR can partner with IT to get the technical content for the handbook. From there, HR can distribute and maintain it in the same way as other policy handbooks.
  3. Add cybersecurity in new employee training. HR typically provides new employee training, either through prerecorded videos, live video sessions or in-person training. By adding cybersecurity training, you can go over the policy and procedures and answer any questions. You can also require new employees to take a quiz on the material to ensure mastery. Work with the IT department to look for an expert who can talk about this in a nontechnical, relatable way. If the employees can’t understand or follow the material, then they are likely to not practice safe processes.
  4. Have a bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) and remote work contract as part of onboarding. During onboarding, new employees often must sign forms showing that they have received specific documents and agree to follow policies. Do you have a BYOD and remote policy? If not, HR should work with IT to create one and include the document as part of onboarding. The BYOD policy should address when employees can use their personal devices and what practices they must follow with these devices, such as using a virtual private network when not on the corporate network, using two-factor authentication and informing the company if a device is lost or stolen.
  5. Partner with IT to create a remote working kit for new hires that includes cybersecurity training and practices. With hybrid remote work likely the future of work at many companies, new employees need to know how to set up their remote office by following security best practices. To make it as easy as possible for new employees to follow the processes and use the tools, create an online location that allows employees to download tools and get copies of the latest remote work processes.
  6. Coordinate a ‘secret shopper’ program. With phishing being a top cause of cybersecurity attacks, real-life simulations are a great way to test whether your employees are following the policy of not clicking on unknown links. Instead of having a ‘secret shopper’ evaluate the employee, HR works with IT to create a ‘test’ phishing message to see which employees click on the link and which employees notify IT of the suspicious message. HR can then work with employees who fall for the phishing scam by providing them with additional cybersecurity training.
  7. Create a hotline. Employees need to know exactly whom to contact if they have an urgent question or spot suspicious activity. HR should work with IT to determine the best way for employees to contact experts and then ensure that all employees have the contact information. You can also use the hotline to determine which areas need more training to answer common questions or concerns.

Cybersecurity Training Requires Teamwork 

One of the reasons that cybersecurity training doesn’t work and best practices are often not followed is that the ownership of them is siloed under the IT department. By moving the responsibility to HR, you can move further along with creating the cybersecurity culture needed to fully protect the company and empower employees.

Jennifer Gregory
Cybersecurity Writer

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a freelance B2B technology content marketing writer specializing in cybersecurity. Other areas of focus include B2B, finance, tec...
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