How to Evolve End-User Training


Building an authentic culture of security in an organization isn’t easy. This is especially true in industries where end users are less technically-minded and may not be aware of the dangers that can result from lax cybersecurity practices.

However, even the most technical organizations are not immune to the dangers posed by ongoing threats like phishing and ransomware. In fact, global attacks have increased by 28% in Q3 of 2022, with most organizations facing more than 1,100 attacks every single week.

One recent example that illustrates the dangers of failing to educate even the most technically-minded employees properly is the October 2022 Dropbox breach. In this attack, hackers stole source code and personal information from Dropbox software developers, who were specifically targeted in a spear phishing campaign with convincing emails and a landing page to ‘log in’ to a landing page that looked exactly like a 3rd-party development app they frequently used. Fortunately, in this instance, user data was not compromised, but it was certainly a wake-up call that the days of easily-identifiable scam emails are long gone.

These developers were intentionally targeted, resulting from an ongoing phishing campaign that should be a wake-up call for us all to be aware of just how sophisticated these cybercriminals have become.

Despite the dangers, too many organizations are still content to leave employees to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, end users are by far any organization’s most vulnerable avenue for a threat actor to perpetrate an attack.

Helping end users understand what can happen to both their own data and devices and those that belong to their employer is central to encouraging them to adopt a more proactive cybersecurity stance. That’s where end-user cybersecurity awareness training proves valuable. 

What is End-User Training?

End-user training is another way to refer to trainings that educate employees or customers on how to use or understand a new technology, software, or productivity tool.

Most often, this training takes place during onboarding, as a new employee is brought up to speed on the company’s processes and tools. However, there are many different types of trainings that organizations can offer, including:

  • Group sessions
  • Online virtual trainings
  • Asynchronous resources for the employee to complete on their own time

We have found ourselves in a place where effective cybersecurity end-user training  has become absolutely pivotal as the threat landscape evolves. At the same time, organizations must recognize the need for additional protections for the day when — not if — end users act like the humans they are and make a simple mistake such as clicking on a malicious link or accidentally logging on to a spoofed site, like the Dropbox developers from earlier.

Despite your best attempts at access control, something as simple as one end-user click can still jeopardize the security of an entire organization.

To cover the main topics of cybersecurity, these trainings include best practices for when users are in and out of the premises, email hygiene, and periodic tests to see how often they fall for phishing scams.

In an effort to make these lessons more engaging, some organizations have even set up escape rooms to demonstrate key concepts in cybersecurity in more fun and exciting ways.

The End-User Awareness Training of the Past

Unfortunately, these fun and exciting end-user security awareness training methods are not yet the norm. Many organizations are still offering end-user trainings that are not only rote and boring but are also geared toward unsophisticated threats that might not pose the risks they once did. 

This has contributed to many end users thinking of phishing attacks as they once were – almost comically easy to spot – rather than being aware of today’s modern threat landscape. (The classic example-turned-internet-meme is the ‘Nigerian prince’ asking you to wire them money, which has since become internet shorthand for an easily identifiable scam that nobody in this day and age would fall for.)

However, this perception of easily identifiable scams is no longer the case. As threat actors have evolved and become more astute in their attacks, phishing and spear phishing campaigns have become sophisticated and account for the vast majority of ransomware incidents. And with the recent advancements from AI in the mix, threat actors will be able to produce even more convincing tactics with less effort for end users to try and parse.

With one business falling to ransomware attacks every 11 seconds, there’s no time to waste educating our end users on current cybersecurity best practices.    

How to Evolve End-User Cybersecurity Awareness Training 

To keep up, organizations cannot hope to rely on the same methods of cybersecurity end-user training that were popular 15, 10, or even five years ago. Making a few fundamental changes can help your training keep up with the times and be more effective.

Create a Culture of Cybersecurity 

The most critical thing organizations can do to evolve their end-user cybersecurity awareness training is to create a culture of cybersecurity and build the understanding that cybersecurity is everyone’s job, not just the responsibility of those who work in IT.

Building a true culture of security within your organization isn’t easy, but it is absolutely worthwhile. This is particularly true of organizations where technology and cybersecurity have been siloed or are regularly excluded from pivotal discussions on business goals.

The fact remains that end users — regardless of the company or industry — are by far any organization’s most significant vulnerability. Successful training should help users feel confident and empowered in a culture of security, so they understand and internalize that security is truly everyone’s responsibility. 

Some steps your organization can take to create a culture of cybersecurity include:

  • Setting a clear and proactive leadership commitment towards company-wide change
  • Offering ongoing and dynamic employee education and training that work with human nature instead of against it
  • Facilitating employee involvement, including in reporting any suspected phishing attempts
  • Regularly soliciting feedback on trainings and adjusting future trainings as necessary for maximum impact
  • Conducting routine security assessments outside the minimum required framework requirements
  • Communicating policies and procedures clearly to all staff
  • Incorporating security into all business processes
  • Fostering a culture of accountability

Think Proactively 

Despite our hopes to create a more empowered workforce through better training, accidents still happen. Even the most diligent and technically-minded employees have off days. This means that companies need to have a system in place to block threat actors once they get in. However, the single best way for organizations to enable their end users to make good decisions is to remove malicious traffic from the equation entirely. 

Active outbound threat blocking is essential to adopting a proactive cybersecurity posture. This is where Threater comes in.

When a threat actor gains access to a network — no matter how they do it – they make a call-out. This is known as a ‘phone home’ or ‘E.T.’ This step is critical for the success of a breach. If the malicious traffic cannot leave the network, neither can the data they’re trying to steal. Blocking this outbound traffic keeps the incident left of boom.

Unfortunately, without Threater, this outbound blocking simply doesn’t happen, forcing companies to shift to playing defense. This is a dangerous way to defend your network and creates a continual strain on your IT team and your cybersecurity stack, potentially leading to even more mistakes.

Threater Contributes to a Company-Wide Culture of Cybersecurity

The best way to protect your overall cybersecurity is to engage multiple overlapping and redundant layers of coverage, and end-user training is a critical component of this. With this approach, you can take pressure off each layer, streamlining cybersecurity maintenance and ensuring all known threat actors are blocked, allowing end users to be even more empowered when faced with fewer threats.

Threater is an essential piece of any defense-in-depth strategy, making life easier for your team, so they can focus on other critical components of cybersecurity.

Ready to see how it works for yourself? Get in touch today for a free risk assessment from our experts.