It's no secret that cyberattacks are on the rise, which means it's becoming increasingly critical for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to incorporate cybersecurity into their business strategies. Studies show that the average website is attacked 94 times per day, and that cybercriminals often target employees when attempting to infiltrate business websites.

Unfortunately, these attacks targeting employees are often successful. In fact, 54 percent of businesses that suffer data breaches identify employee error as the main cause of the breach. In many cases, this is because employees are unaware of common methods cybercriminals use to obtain sensitive company information. 

To help combat cyberthreats, businesses can incorporate security awareness training and best practices into their company culture. Here are some guidelines for companies that want to implement security awareness training and improve their cybersecurity without breaking the bank. 

Cover Phishing Attacks in Security Awareness Training

At least 91 percent of advanced cyberattacks are carried out through phishing emails. For this reason, it's essential to educate your employees on how to identify and respond to possible phishing emails. During the security training, explain that common signs of phishing emails include an incorrect sender address, embedded links, and spelling or grammar errors. 

Also, be sure to train your employees on what to do if they receive a possible phishing email. Instruct them to never respond to suspicious emails, to delete the emails immediately, and to notify IT or the appropriate department within your business. In addition, you can deploy phishing simulations to employees to ensure their preparedness in the event of a real phishing attack. This involves sending mock phishing emails to give your employees valuable practice in identifying and responding to phishing attacks.  

Enforce Strong Passwords

During your security awareness training, make sure to stress the importance of using strong passwords to your employees. Weak passwords can be easily guessed by cybercriminals, as the Ponemon Institute's 2019 Global State of Cybersecurity report demonstrates. In the report, an incredible 70 percent of SMBs state that their employees' passwords had been stolen in the past year. 

Instruct your employees on secure password practices such as avoiding using names, birthdates, and easy number combinations such as "123." In addition, direct them to use a unique password for every account, and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. Utilizing unique passwords for each account ensures that cybercriminals cannot use credentials compromised from one account to compromise another (e.g., using your email password to access a bank account).

On top of these best practices, implement a password manager for an added layer of security. Password managers generate and store complex passwords that may be more difficult to remember, but they are also much more difficult for cybercriminals to crack, which helps prevent security breaches.

Stay Secure While Working Remotely

With thousands of business owners and employees now working from home, it's crucial to keep your employees informed on how to stay secure when working remotely. Your cybersecurity training should also educate employees on how to maintain safe computing and online habits when working outside the office. 

Given the current environment, you should teach your employees about topics such as email and instant messaging security best practices, how to protect mobile data and devices, and how to defend themselves against phishing and other cyberattacks. In addition, instruct them to use a virtual private network (VPN) on their work devices to help keep company data and communications secure when working from home.

Improve Cybersecurity With Fewer Resources

You may lack the budget and resources of larger organizations, which can make it more challenging to develop a strong cybersecurity strategy. However, implementing security awareness training is a cost-effective solution for helping you improve your cybersecurity. 

You can develop these employee training programs yourself, or you can partner with a cybersecurity provider to conduct regular security awareness trainings. Some cybersecurity providers also offer phishing simulations to ensure employees are able to apply the skills they've learned. You can save time and money by choosing a provider that offers both, while receiving the most value from the training.  

When businesses send simulated phishing emails to their employees once a month, research shows that the clicks on these simulated emails decrease by 27 percent over time. By implementing regular security trainings and following up with routine phishing simulations, organizations can prepare their employees to be the first line of defense against cyberattacks without adding a lot of additional expense in the process. 

Cyberattacks on businesses are becoming more prevalent and sophisticated. As cybercriminals increasingly target the company's employees, it's imperative to ensure employees are knowledgeable on common attack methods and security best practices. Small to midsize businesses can improve their overall security posture by integrating cybersecurity awareness into their company culture without incurring major expenses.