Why CISOs Should Embrace Personalized Cybersecurity Training

Asaf Kotsel
Co-Founder and CEO   Dcoya

One of the most urgent responsibilities for any CISO is generating support for Cybersecurity Awareness Training (CSAT) across the organization. An effective cybersecurity strategy requires comprehensive stakeholder buy-in, as data breaches can be caused by anyone – from executives to entry-level employees. CISOs also need the support of their colleagues in the C-Suite and at the managerial level to implement and sustain their CSAT programs.

There are many ways CISOs can earn this support: with highly engaging and relevant training content, by tracking the success of CSAT programs and holding themselves accountable, and through the creation of a company-wide culture of cybersecurity. These are the reasons personalized CSAT is becoming more critical all the time. By customizing cybersecurity awareness training content on the basis of individual learners’ needs and abilities, CISOs will increase engagement, rigorously track performance, and ultimately build a CSAT platform capable of securing long-term behavioral and cultural change.

While all employees should be held to the same high standards when it comes to keeping the company safe from cyber threats, this doesn’t mean their skill levels and learning styles are interchangeable. To the contrary: the only way for CISOs to build a well-trained workforce and facilitate the transition to a cyber-aware culture is by recognizing that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to cybersecurity education.

Why personalized learning works

Just as there’s a diverse array of workforces across companies and industries, employees within each organization are all unique. Although some companies are more diverse than others, many workforces are characterized by a wide spectrum of experience and educational levels, backgrounds, and personalities. Considering this significant divergence, it makes little sense to wedge all employees into the same educational framework.

There are several reasons personalized CSAT has an advantage over static training programs that don’t account for differences among learners:

  • The training content is tailored to the specific needs and roles of each employee. Relevance is a key element of engagement – when employees can clearly see how lessons apply to their lives, they’ll pay closer attention, retain what they learn, and put that information to use in preventing real-world cyber-attacks.
  • Personalized training can address what’s wrong and reinforce what’s right with employee behavior. Employees don’t all have comparable levels of knowledge, nor do they learn at the same pace. By personalizing your CSAT program, you’ll see where employees are performing well and where they need extra assistance, which will allow you to target your educational interventions on that basis.
  • Personalized training accounts for behavioral differences. Some employees are more careful and judicious than others. Some will be tempted to click on malicious content that others would avoid. By tracking these differences and crafting educational content around them, companies can mitigate a wider range of risks.

The first job of any CSAT program is to hold employees’ attention and ensure that they’re learning what they need to know. When CISOs and other company leaders personalize these programs, they’ll keep employees engaged and secure better educational outcomes.

Building support on the leadership team

Personalized learning isn’t just necessary to capture employees’ attention – it can also build support for CSAT among the CISO’s colleagues in the leadership team. Here are the core points CISOs should emphasize to demonstrate the value of personalized learning:

  • CISOs need to make the case that personalized CSAT meets employees where they are with targeted content, individual assistance, and a particular focus on employees who pose the biggest risks to the organization. Personalized CSAT enables companies to proactively identify vulnerabilities before they become entry points for cybercriminals.
  • Companies should know if their CSAT program is working, which means monitoring employees’ performance and confirming that they’re learning essential cybersecurity concepts. Personalized CSAT allows CISOs to track individual employee performance, identify risky behaviors and traits, and allocate resources accordingly.
  • The CISO always has to demonstrate how much damage cyber-attacks can cause – according to IBM, the average cost of a data breach reached a record high of $4.35 million in 2022. When companies have an effective CSAT program, they’re in a stronger position to avoid the huge financial, reputational, and operational consequences of breaches and other cyber-attacks.

It’s the CISO’s job to show other members of the C-Suite why cyber-awareness is so important and how a robust CSAT program can keep the company safe. At a time when 82 percent of breaches involve a human element, CSAT should be integral to every company’s security strategy. Personalization will help companies fully leverage their CSAT platform, and CISOs should be able to articulate exactly why this is the case.

Moving toward long-term cultural change

Personalized CSAT is the most reliable way to secure long-term behavioral change among employees, which will eventually lead to the establishment of a cyber-aware culture. The long-term goal of a CSAT program is to make cybersecurity second nature for employees – checking digital communications for signs of malicious content, confirming the validity of authentication requests, and reporting malicious content should all come naturally to employees at every level of the organization.

Beyond the fact that personalized learning gives employees the educational resources they need and allows companies to track performance in a more in-depth way, it also meets the emerging employee demand for professional development. Gallup reports that just over one-fifth of employees are engaged at work, and explains that the opportunity to learn and grow on the job is a central element of engagement. Meanwhile, over three-quarters of employees say they’re “ready to learn new skills or completely retrain” as the global economy becomes more competitive and skills-based. Personalized CSAT meets all these demands by giving employees crucial skills and educational experiences that are built around their specific needs.

Cyber-awareness is much more than an instrumental skill, the cultivation of which will increase employee engagement and retention. It’s a necessity at a time when cyber-attacks are constantly becoming more destructive and as cybercriminal tactics continue to evolve. Employees remain the primary defense against cyber-attacks, which is why creating a culture of cybersecurity with powerful engagement strategies like personalized learning has never been more vital.

Asaf Kostel

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