Cyber Security has always been viewed as the responsibility of the IT department. However, in reality, every employee across different departments has a significant role to play in safeguarding the sensitive data and the overall infrastructure of the organization. As we witness an increase in the sophistication of cybercrimes and malicious activities of exploiting vulnerabilities in systems and employees, the need for educating and training employees about such attacks has become imperative.
Regular training for employees is now not just a necessity from a compliance standpoint, but also from the perspective of educating employees and training them to secure sensitive data that they deal with regularly.
Moreover, today the risk of an employee not understanding or identifying a potential security threat opens doors to attackers for committing a security breach. For these reasons, many information security frameworks and regulations, like SOC 2, PCI DSS, GDPR, HIPAA, etc. emphasize the need for regularly conducting a security awareness and training program for employees of the organization.
Explaining the importance of the training program, especially in SOC2, we have also shared details as to how it helps in achieving SOC2 Attestation for an organization. But before that, let us understand what is security awareness training program and what does it cover.
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What is Security Awareness Training?
Every employee and stakeholder of an organization can be a potential target, and every online activity performed by them carries a degree of risk. Building a strong cybersecurity program is a blend of people, processes, and technology. Within that, people are the soft target who are often exposed to exponential levels of security threats. That is why information security awareness and training should be an organization’s top priority.
Cyber Security Awareness and Training Program should never be underestimated. The awareness and training program is a process that focuses on educating employees and stakeholders about various security threats prevailing in the industry and ways to deal with them. The program demonstrates the best security practices to be adopted for safeguarding sensitive data and assets of the organization.
The program involves educating employees and providing information related to the tactics adopted by hackers to compromise the security of a company’s client data. Not just that, the program conducted should talk about the organization’s security policies and procedures that should be followed by every employee.
The program should even educate employees about the controls in place that are enforced to safeguard sensitive data. Security awareness training should include sharing techniques of securing email, techniques to prevent falling prey to phishing, and fake messages, insider threats, securing mobile devices, physical security, malware, social engineering, Wi-Fi security, reporting incidents, whistle blowing, etc.
What does AICPA say about SOC2 Security Awareness Training?
For organizations to be compliant and achieve SOC2 Attestation, the AICPA has clearly outlined criteria for conducting awareness programs for employees. Common Criteria 2.2 requires organizations to “communicate information to improve security knowledge and awareness and to model appropriate security behaviors to personnel through a security awareness training program.” There are numerous other controls such as CC 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.3, 5.3, 6.6 etc require that Security Awareness Training has to be provided not just to internal personnel but even contracted employees, outsourced personnel and even senior management.
HR is tasked with the responsibility of setting the process and scheduling the training sessions not just at the time of induction but all through the lifecycle of the personnel in the company. Senior management is where the buck stops and they are required to monitor and to ensure that there are enough resources for effective awareness training across the organization at all levels. So, that said, conducting regular security awareness and training programs is essential for SOC2.
Why is SOC2 Security Awareness Training Important?
Employees are unfortunately the weakest security link in an organization. Be it due to the lack of knowledge, skills, training, or awareness of cybersecurity best practices. Cybersecurity awareness training is always an afterthought for most organizations. For these reasons, there is always a great threat of security internally from the employee’s ignorance.
Organizations need to understand that every single employee must be trained and educated well enough to understand how they could unintentionally be the cause of compromise in an organization by falling for phishing attempts, using weak passwords, neglecting company policies, and other malicious techniques of hackers. To combat these threats, it is important to establish a security culture within the organization and take security threats seriously.
Having security training programs in place is essential not just for employee awareness but also to satisfy security audits and compliance requirements. Given below are some of the benefits of a security awareness training program.
Achieving compliance with the SOC 2 standard is not just about implementing the right processes and technical controls to safeguard information. For ensuring the effectiveness of these security measures, employees in charge of maintaining security controls play a key role.
Therefore addressing the human element is important. AICPA requires organizations to conduct security awareness programs for their employees to achieve compliance. The common criteria 2.2 require organizations to improve security knowledge, awareness and build a cyber-security culture within the organization through a security awareness training program.
Cybersecurity awareness training is required to align with the common criteria laid out by the SOC2 framework. It is a holistic approach towards tackling various security threats and identifying areas of improvement that facilitates SOC2 audit and its compliance requirements.
Aware of Industry Standards and Cyberthreat
SOC2 Security Training and Awareness programs aim at educating employees about the industry’s best standards and framework while also creating an awareness of various cybersecurity threats prevailing in the industry. Employees will be in a position to understand the security dynamics of the industry and also learn about the various cyber threats and their potential impact on the business. The program will also give them direction in terms of taking the required steps to reduce risk and prevent hackers from hacking and accessing the systems and networks.
Additional Layer of Defence
Not all security threats can be detected by technology. Attacks through a broad range of social engineering activities can lead to manipulation of employees to gaining access and stealing of sensitive information or gaining physical access to restricted areas. Unfortunately, there are no technical safeguards to address such issues and so the only feasible way to tackle such threats is by educating and training employees to deal with them.
Limits Data Breach Incidents
Information is one of the most critical assets of an organization. Hackers often in search of targets and vulnerabilities that can be used to gain access. While technical safeguards are always in place to tackle these issues, it is the human link that is the most vulnerable to falling a victim to cybercrimes. Studies have shown that training employees and reducing the reducing vulnerabilities caused by them significantly reduces the likelihood of security breach incidents. In fact, trained employees will also be in a far better position to deal with such incidents if and when it occurs and reduce the overall impact on the business.
Improved Incident Response
Periodic SOC2 Security Awareness Training helps equip employees against security threats. The program helps develop essential competencies and techniques to build a defense against evolving security issues. The program also trains employees for appropriate Incident Response Management. So, this provides a level of maturity for incident response in case a data breach occurs. Conducting a Security Awareness Training Program greatly contributes to the improvement of an organization’s security posture and also reduces the risk posture to various cyber threats.
SOC2 Compliance is not just about simply ticking off the compliance checklist and having in place policies, procedures, and security practices. Ensuring every aspect of security measures are covered including training of employees is crucial. Employees play a key role in protecting the business. They are the most vulnerable link to your business. So, emphasis on Security Awareness Training is important as it is a valuable tool for an organization to combat security risks.
Conducting the SOC2 Security Awareness Training program and using it to drive a security culture change throughout the organization can prepare the organization for better compliance and improved defense against security challenges. Doing so effectively will help in building trust and also ensuring the security of critical data and assets of the company. We at VISTA InfoSec can guide organizations conducting security awareness programs. Our team of experts will brief your employees about the SOC2 framework and industry-best security practices that they can put to use in their daily business operations. For more details, you can contact our team at [email protected]