How To Train Your Employees On Data Security Awareness


If you asked a random sample of the population about their most pressing online concerns, it wouldn’t be overly surprising if data privacy was near the top of their list.

Especially important is this concern when it comes to businesses and the information they collect and use on a daily basis. However, even the most secure and hardened infrastructure will always have a weak link…humans! Fortunately, even though humans are the weakest link in data security, it doesn’t take much training to get your team up to speed.

This article will cover some of the most effective ways any business can teach its staff how to keep data safe and avoid issues like hacking, ransomware attacks, or even data compliance issues that can cost you dearly in terms of money and reputation.

Educate Staff On The Risks Of Data Breaches

Employees are usually the first and last line of defense for a data breach, so it’s imperative that you educate them about the risks associated with these breaches and what to do in case of one. It’s essential to explain the potential damage that is inflicted if customer data or other types of mission-critical data gets leaked or stolen. Luckily, you can outsource specific services on data literacy to educational institutions that are often better able to educate and inform your team of the myriad threats businesses face today. This has the added benefit of freeing up your time to focus on your overall business operations, safe in the knowledge that your employees will come back with a fresh perspective on things.

However, if you wish to handle things in-house, there are several ways to educate your staff on security best practices, including:

  • Not sharing passwords (more on passwords later)
  • Shutting down or putting to sleep computers when not in use
  • Never leaving removable storage devices unattended
  • Never plug in an unknown external storage device unless it’s been cleared by the IT department

Additionally, you need to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding recognizing and preventing social engineering attempts like phishing or those related to social media. Interestingly, one of the best techniques for reducing instances of social engineering (which is by far the most common tactic used to steal data) if by fascinating an open environment where people feel comfortable speaking with those in the know when they believe something is amiss.

Develop A System For Reporting Security Incidents

Developing systems for reporting security incidents, however mild or severe they appear, is essential to training your employees on security awareness. This system should be designed to ensure that any potential incidents are flagged and followed up on promptly. It should provide ways for employees to communicate securely when the need arises and ensure that all incident reports are routed through the proper channels. Having these systems in place will ensure that your organization can respond quickly to potential threats and take measures to address them before they lead to severe data loss or damage.

Additionally, having easy access to pass reports of similar incidents can be incredibly helpful in identifying similar threat sources and components that may help protect future risks from escalating further. So, what exactly do such systems look like?

  • Email notification for security incidents (although this should be used sparingly, especially if a breach is believed to be system-wide)
  • Online forms that are only accessible via an intranet
  • Automated alerts for suspicious acidity (either developed in-house if your company is large enough or bought off the shelf)
  • Secure messaging systems for employees to communicate about potential threats
  • An open environment to air concerns without fear of repercussion

Explain The Common Methods Of Data Breaches

If you are to educate your employees on data security, it’s prudent to first teach them about the primary threats they will likely face. Data breaches occur when cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to your data (sensitive or otherwise). The most common methods include the following:

  1. Phishing (which accounts for over 90% according to some statistics)
  2. Malware
  3. Ransomware
  4. Insider threats (not as common, but still something to consider)


Phishing is arguably one of the biggest threats businesses, and individuals face. It works so well because it works by tricking you into thinking that something is legitimate when it isn’t. It often involves hackers or other nefarious actors obtaining an email address and sending emails pretending to be someone else or an official entity. The idea is to lure unsuspecting people into clicking links that lead to a page the hacker has created, where they will enter confidential information that can be used for whatever purpose the hacker desires.


Malware is an enormous threat to any organization. Consequently, you must explain basic terms such as adware, ransomware, fishing, and spyware. Educating employees about potential sources of malware attacks, as well as common indicators that an attack may be underway. Teach workers about best practices for setting strong passwords, avoiding suspicious links or email attachments, and using firewalls or antivirus programs for further protection from external threats.


Ransomware is a type of attack where the hacker takes control of your computer files and locks them until a ransom is paid. Ransomware attacks are incredibly destructive. This is all that data can be encrypted and inaccessible until payment is made. Explain to your employees the different methods hackers use to gain access to sensitive information, so they know how to stay safe from these threats.

Insider Threats

This threat is particularly egregious since it will be someone in your own team who is stealing data and either selling it for profit or using it to harm your business for an unspecified reason. This tends to happen in larger corporations where large sums of money are involved. However, smaller companies should still remain vigilant by ensuring that security protocols are strictly adhered to.

Teach Employees Best Practices For Password Management (More Important Than You Might Think)

When discussing data security, it is inevitable that the topic of passwords will eventually arise. Weak passwords are one of the most significant vulnerabilities that can leave your company exposed, but they are also the most straightforward to fix. For example, they should use the most common best practices when creating passwords; in many ways, one that’s difficult to remember will be the best. Your staff should also avoid handing out their passwords or using the same passwords for multiple accounts, as this can and will be exploited by hackers.

Keeping company data safe begins with proper education. Creating and maintaining an open environment that encourages discussion will ensure a safer data environment as long as your employees know the correct techniques.