Why Traditional Security Awareness Programs are Costly and Ineffective

Security Awareness has come a long way. It grew, evolved, and gained recognition as human-based threats became more sophisticated. Organizations are investing heavily in programs, but the practice has become stagnant. Traditional programs have become often costly, ineffective, and out of touch with modern threats and employee behavior. 

Security Leaders are starting to learn about Human Risk Management, a holistic and integrated step from traditional security awareness. Leveraging technology, fostering a security culture, and aligning training with other security tools can create a more effective and sustainable program.

However, leaders, managers, and other stakeholders still need to sell the change inside their organizations. Thinking of this need, this article explores the limitations of traditional security awareness programs and their alternatives. 

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The Limitations of One-Size-Fits-All Approaches in Traditional Security Awareness Programs

Many vendors stuck in the formula of traditional security awareness programs often take a one-size-fits-all approach, failing to address the unique needs and challenges of different roles and departments within an organization.

Repetitive content, lack of targeted options, no customization, and generic content do not help move the needle.

These are the main ways it fails to deliver.

Focus on Repetitive Content versus Behavioral Change and Culture

Many security awareness programs rely on static, compliance-driven training that employees often view as repetitive, check-of-the-box compliance exercises. Being so, disengaged employees go through the motions, failing to learn or get inspired to take responsibility for their part of the security culture.

Change only comes if employees can think critically about the organization’s security culture and posture. That can only be achieved with content that communicates with real behaviors and organizational culture/risk profile, delivering compliance goals, and more.

Failure to Target Specific Roles and Risks in Security Awareness Programs

Employees in different roles and departments face unique security risks based on their access, responsibilities, and exposure to sensitive information. This is another traditional security awareness program “one-size-fits-all” approach, which doesn’t consider that different departments, locations, and risk profiles demand unique training content.

Lack of Engagement and Interactivity

Long videos, boring slides, or a never-ending procession of “next” buttons without any interaction a sure to fail to capture the attention of employees, disconnecting them from the learning and from the overall organizational security. Modern approaches leverage behavior-based training that’s also engaging, making them a part of the training and making clear relations to the real work scenarios.

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The Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness in Traditional Security Awareness Programs

The challenge of measuring what matters effectively is one of the factors that’s leaving traditional security awareness programs lacking. The majority of security leaders know what they want to track, and what matters, but can’t reach these metrics within outdated models and platforms.

Difficulty in Tracking Meaningful Goals

To improve security culture and posture, organizations and their security leaders are looking for more behavior-based metrics, variation in SOC alerts, and actionable insights that help drive tech stack and infrastructure decisions. However, quantifying these goals and tracking progress locked with traditional security awareness programs can be challenging, especially when dealing with limited platforms and outdated methodologies.

Over-reliance on Training-Based Metrics like Phishing Click Rates

Many traditional security awareness programs rely heavily on metrics such as phishing click rates to gauge the effectiveness of their training efforts. While these metrics can provide some insight into employee susceptibility to phishing attacks, they do not necessarily reflect a broader understanding of security best practices or a sustained change in behavior.

Additionally, an overemphasis on phishing click rates can lead to a narrow focus on a single threat vector, neglecting other important aspects of security awareness.

The Diminishing Returns of Traditional Training

Even when security awareness programs are well-funded and increase budget allocations every year, the impact of these programs is shrinking, putting security leaders in a Groundhog Day of sorts, renewing with solutions that work even less year over year. They are stuck in a compliance loop and are sometimes unaware of better ways to achieve their compliance needs but get significantly more returns.

One of the key reasons why traditional security awareness programs deliver diminishing returns is the disconnect between employee knowledge and action. One-size-fits-all training does not prepare employees for real-life challenges, is not aligned with their roles, and – most importantly – does not take into account their behavior and therefore misses learning opportunities.

To address these limitations, organizations must adopt a more comprehensive and integrated approach to security awareness that goes beyond the traditional training model. This approach should leverage security tech stacks, behavioral science, and a strong security culture to augment and empower employees.

How to Break up with traditional Security Awareness?

Human Risk Management delivers your compliance goals and a lot more. Download our infographic summary to find out how. 

The Need for a More Holistic Approach

As the limitations of traditional security awareness programs become increasingly apparent, organizations must adopt a more comprehensive and integrated approach to security education and culture. Human Risk Management fills that gap by communicating with other security tools and systems to deploy training based on real-life behaviors, for example.

Integrating Human Risk Management with Other Security Tools

Rather than treating security awareness as a standalone program, organizations should strive to integrate human risk management strategies with their broader security ecosystem. This includes seamlessly integrating the security awareness platform with Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems, phishing simulation tools, endpoint security, and identity and access management solutions.

By creating these interconnected systems, organizations can gain a more holistic view of security risks, tailor training to specific threats, and provide real-time guidance and feedback to employees.

Leveraging Technology to Improve Human Defenses

While human behavior remains a critical component of an organization’s security posture, technology can play a vital role in enhancing the effectiveness of security awareness programs. Not only through the integrations we mentioned above but also by incorporating elements like custom content, GenAi to streamline training and policy interventions, and the integration with communication tools to make sure employees get the message wherever they are and at the right moment.

By adopting Human Risk Management, organizations still seize the best from Security Awareness training programs but can do more, creating a comprehensive and integrated security culture that empowers employees, rather than just dumping ineffective training libraries. Combining human risk management, security culture, and technology-enabled solutions, can help organizations reduce the costly impact of security incidents and build a more resilient and secure organization.

How Right-Hand is Using Human Risk Management to deliver superior results for its customers

Being one of the first organizations to bring what would become the norm for Human Risk Management, we can say that it works. Traditional security awareness programs have run their course and some of its components still have a place. However, we have been incorporating elements that not only stop the diminishing results of traditional methods but deliver superior results and insights.

Here are some of the elements of our Human Risk Management approach:

Profile How it's effective
Multilingual and Custom Content
We provide you multilingual and customized content tailored to the diverse needs and preferences of your organization.
Seamless integration with security tech stacks
Right-Hand integrates flawlessly with your existing security products to deliver timely behavior-based training and policy interventions.
Risk Consolidation & Quantification
Our platform consolidates and quantifies risks, making it easier to understand and mitigate it effectively.
Risk-Driven Coaching
We provide risk-driven coaching tailored to individual needs, enhancing your team's security posture.
Gamified Learning
Experience our gamified and interactive learning content that makes cyber awareness training enjoyable and memorable.
Detailed Insights into User Behavior
We help you by providing detailed insights into your employees' behavior, enabling targeted interventions to enhance your security practices.

If you want to adopt a program that matches your wishes, effectively changes behavior, and reduces risk, schedule a personalized demo with us today.

Picture of Rodrigo Leme

Rodrigo Leme

Marketing Director for Right-Hand Cybersecurity, Rodrigo has over 20 years worth of experience in Technology companies in Brazil, US, Canada and other countries. He is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and loves everything tech, music, marketing, writing, and hockey (go Canucks!).

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