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Security Awareness Training (SAT) just isn’t working: for companies, for employees, for anybody.
By 2022, 60% of large organizations will have comprehensive SAT programs (source: Gartner Magic Quadrant for SAT 2019), with global spending on security awareness training for employees predicted to reach $10 billion by 2027. While this adoption and market size seems impressive, SAT in its current form is fundamentally broken and needs a rethink. Fast.
SAT is seen as a “quick win” when it comes to security – a tick box item that companies can do in order to tell their shareholders, regulators and customers that they’re taking security seriously. Often the evidence of these initiatives being conducted is much more important than the effectiveness of them.
Too many SAT programs are delivered once or twice a year in unmemorable sessions. However we dress it up, SAT just isn’t engaging. The training sessions are too long, videos are cringeworthy, and the experience is delivered through clunky interfaces reminiscent of CD-Rom multimedia from the 90s. What’s more, after just one day people forget more than 70% of what was taught in training, while 1 in 5 employees don’t even show up for SAT sessions.
We give the same training content to everyone, regardless of their seniority, tenure, location, department etc. This is a mistake. Every employee has different security characteristics (strengths, weaknesses, access to data and systems) so why do we insist on giving the same material to everybody to focus on?
Phishing is a huge risk when it comes to Human Layer Security, but it’s by no means the only one. So many SAT programs are overly focused on the threat of phishing and completely ignore other risks caused by human error, like sending emails and attachments to the wrong people or sending highly confidential information to personal email accounts.
Too many SAT programs are delivered once or twice a year in lengthy sessions. This makes it really hard for employees to remember the training they were given (when they completed it five months ago), and the sessions themselves have to cram in too much content to be memorable.
So often companies only look at the license cost of a SAT program to determine costs—this is a grave mistake. SAT is one of the most expensive parts of an organization’s security program, because the total cost of ownership includes not just the license costs, but also the total cost of all employee time spent going through it, not to mention the opportunity cost of them doing something else with that time.
SAT platforms are generally standalone products, and they don’t talk to other parts of the security stack. This means that organizations aren’t leveraging the intelligence from these platforms to drive better outcomes in their security practice (preventing future breaches), nor are they using the intelligence to improve and iterate on the overall security culture of the company.
So, should we ditch our SAT initiative altogether? Absolutely not! People are now the gatekeepers to the most sensitive systems and data in the enterprise and providing security awareness and training to them is a crucial pillar of any cybersecurity initiative. It is, however, time for a new approach—one that’s automated, in-the-moment, and long-lasting. Read more about Tessian’s approach to SAT 2.0 here.