Failure to demonstrate the effectiveness of a security awareness program might result in a loss of executive support, which is necessary to ensure program participation. This will make securing the ongoing financial or resourcing support needed to maintain momentum and minimize organizational risk more difficult.
Businesses continue to be plagued by phishing attempts, compromise of business emails, stolen credentials, and other threats that take advantage of human errors. As cyber threat actors seek to exploit these flaws to gain access to systems, boosting an organization’s security awareness can mean the difference between preventing an attack and a complete interruption of vital business processes.
Still, security and risk management leaders, have a difficult time convincing senior executives that investing in a security awareness program will actually decrease organizational risk.
Employee participation in the security awareness programs is critical, and it can be measured using traditional metrics like course completion, training participation, and phishing simulation click-through rates. However, these measures by themselves are insufficient to demonstrate that the enterprise program is changing employee behavior in a way that decreases cyber risk.
Here are three ways that security and risk management leaders can evaluate the performance of their security awareness programs and prove to stakeholders that the programs are influencing end-user behavior and, as a result, lowering the human-borne risk for the company.
Create a vision for security awareness
An effective security awareness program is created with the goal of changing end-user behavior. A clear vision statement and cultural charter can aid in identifying and articulating what this transformation should entail.
To create this vision, security leaders need to first choose the security practices they wish to see ingrained in the daily activities of the end users. Then, to create a clear vision statement for the security awareness program, they can form a cross-functional team of volunteer representatives from several business divisions. It’s more likely that the desired security behaviors will be expressed in a way that resonates with the broader workforce, not just the security team if businesses use a cross-functional working group. This team could use the list of ideal security practices to articulate signature behaviors that would be displayed and applauded if the security awareness program met its goals.
Create metrics that are driven by the desired outcome
Reports on training completion rates or phishing simulation click rates are available on most computer-based security awareness training platforms. While knowing who is completing the training is crucial, such reports may not provide the information on its effectiveness at reducing risk.
The main goal of any enterprise security awareness program should be to modify employee behavior in such a way that security events are less likely and have less impact. Outcome-Driven Metrics (ODM) tracks such results and correlates them with quantifiable protection advantages. ODM can be used by SRM leaders to identify an operational and/or benefit outcome that is aligned with the security awareness vision and culture charter.
Establish a link between operational outcomes and business benefits
Following the collection of operational outcome metrics data, the next crucial step is to link these insights to business drivers. Security leaders can begin by calculating the impact of human-induced cyber risks and mapping them to positive outcomes like the number of cybersecurity incidents caused by data abuse and human error, as well as completion rates for non-mandatory security awareness training.
If any of the following beneficial outcome measures do not show signs of improvement after two or more reporting periods, the security awareness training program may have problems. This allows security leaders to make proactive improvements to the program without jeopardizing the ongoing culture change.
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