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How to start a Security Awareness Program for a Small Business in 4 Steps?

What is Security Awareness?

Security awareness describes the knowledge and attitude of the workforce of an organization about the protection of physical or informational assets of an organization. Security awareness training is the process of providing the employees with formal security education about security threats and the organization's outlined policies and procedures for mitigating them.

Importance of Security Awareness

The State of Privacy and Security Awareness Report by Osterman Research revealed that most employees are not aware of key risk factors related to data security and privacy. The research further found out that 43% of employees are unaware that clicking a suspicious link or opening an unknown attachment in an email may lead to a malware infection. Most of them do not understand that security is their responsibility and only a few of them understand sensitive data privacy best practices.

In view of this, it is undeniable that employers need to put in the effort to secure their enterprises. In a small business, the employees are the first line of defense against all forms of cyber-attacks. The greatest weakness in any system is the human users. Therefore, to keep your business secure, you must begin by making your workforce cyber secure. For this purpose, a small business should have a cyber-security awareness program.

Security compliance is a growing legal concern for companies across all industries today. Regulatory standards like HIPAA, ISO 27001, and PCI DSS outline standards for improving security in an organization. Small businesses are no exception. If you intend to keep your small business operational, you must comply with the applicable local, state, and federal standards. Failure to comply with some standards such as HIPAA can result in legal and financial penalties.

How to start a Security Awareness Program for a Small Business

1. Assessing your needs

Evaluation is the first step in developing an awareness program. This is the step where you assess the major threats that you will tackle. Studying attacks from the past will also provide valuable insights into the types of attacks that recur in that industry. For example, in a small business, you will need to figure out what attacks are most likely to occur. If your small business is running in a regulated industry, then it is important to include compliance requirements as outlined by the regulators.

2. Developing content

The overall objective of a security awareness program in a business is to secure the business by training employees on the best security practices. After assessing the business needs, the next thing is to develop training content that will be used to develop a security-aware culture among the employees.

The best way to develop content for a security awareness program is by using real-world examples as case studies. The content should enable the employees to identify the attacks instantly. Apart from that, the content must include a reporting procedure that outlines what should be done in case an attack occurs. The business policies must be incorporated in the content as well to avoid contradictory procedures.

3. Delivering the training

Most businesses have a training program for new employees. This is one perfect case where the content you developed can be delivered. For other employees, continuous training should be added to the working cycle as part of employee value addition. It is vital to include practical aspects in the training. For example, staging phishing simulations is a great way to train employees on detecting and stopping phishing attacks. Periodic newsletters are also another great way to deliver information to the employees. If possible, employee training sessions should also be held periodically.

4. Follow up

After delivering the content, it is important to test if the intention of the content was met. It is also important to keep track of who completes the training, how much time they took, and how effective the result was. If you notice that people do not complete a certain part of the training, you might consider delivering it in another form.

It is also important to keep track of security incidences before the security awareness program and after. Lastly, attackers are always coming up with new methods of attacking. To keep your security awareness program successful, the training must be updated to include the new threats and remove the old ones that are no longer used. The upgrading process must be made a continuous and lifelong process.

How to continuously measure the effectiveness of a security awareness program

For a security awareness program to be termed as successful, it must be effective. It will be useless to equip employees with knowledge that will never secure the organization at all. In view of this, a security awareness program must constantly be evaluated. One way to evaluate the effectiveness is by incorporating tests as part of the training process. This step will give a clear picture of whether the employees understood the content and how to implement it.

The employees can also take random security tests. Randomizing the test will capture the employees unprepared and therefore will give a clear picture of how they will behave in a real attack. Another way is by setting up mock security incidences and observing how the people involved will behave. In a small business, for example, the person involved can launch a mock phishing attack and observe who will fall into the trap.

After assessing the effectiveness of the security awareness program, changes should be made to the program itself to improve the effectiveness based on the findings of the assessment. For example, if it was found out that the employees cannot detect a phishing attack, more emphasis should be put on training the employees to detect such attacks.


The assumption that employees are naturally security-aware is misinformed and can potentially expose a business to avoidable threats. The task of protecting a business should not be delegated solely to the security agency responsible. Instead, the entire organization should nurture a culture of security awareness among its workforce. Starting a security awareness program is the first step in nurturing security awareness. HacWare makes it stupid easy for Small Businesses to launch a security awareness program to combat phishing attacks. The entire program is up and running in 10 minutes or less! Book a demo at to learn more.

HacWare is a AI powered security awareness and training platform that helps SMBs continuously train their employees about cybersecurity attacks.

Learn more about HacWare at If you are a MSP or Managed Security Service provider (MSSP), we would love to automate your security education services, click here to learn more about our partner program.

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