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Ten commandments for effective security training

Joe Ferrara | May 4, 2012
Information security people think that simply making users aware of security issues will make them change their behavior. But security pros are learning the hard way that awareness rarely equals change.

7. Tell a story

When people are introduced to characters and narrative development, they often form subtle emotional ties to the material that helps keep them engaged. Rather than listing facts and data, use storytelling techniques. (Editor's note: see, for example, How to rob a bank.)

8. Make them think

People need an opportunity to evaluate and process their performance before they can improve. Security awareness training should challenge people to examine the information presented, question its validity, and draw their own conclusions.

9. Let them set the pace

It may sound cliche, but everyone really does learn at their own pace. A one-size-fits-all security training program is doomed to fail because it does not allow users to progress at the best speed for them.

10. Offer conceptual and procedural knowledge

Conceptual knowledge provides the big picture and lets a person apply techniques to solve a problem. Procedural knowledge focuses on the specific actions required to solve the problem.

Combining the two types of knowledge greatly enhances users' understanding. For example, a user may need a procedural lesson to understand that an IP address included in a URL is an indication that they are seeing a phishing URL. However, they also need the conceptual understanding of all the parts of a URL to understand the difference between an IP address and a domain name, otherwise they may mistake something like for a phishing URL.


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