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Security awareness training must be given more importance as likelihood of human error leading to a security breach increases

UK – 1st October 2014 – As part of European Cyber Security Awareness Month (ECSM), Lance Spitzner, Director, SANS Institute suggests that human resource departments have a critical role to play in helping their organisations improve information security procedures.  “Organisations are beginning to realise that they have to secure the human element as technology can only go so far,” says Spitzner, an internationally recognised leader in the field of cyber threat research and security training and awareness.

ECSM is a European Union advocacy campaign that takes place in October. ECSM aims to promote cyber security among citizens, to change their perception of cyber-threats and provide up to date security information, through education and sharing good practices.

“As long as people store, process or transfer information, they too must be secured.   One of the most effective ways to secure employees is to change their behaviours through an active, long term security awareness program,” adds Spitzner who has spoken to and worked with numerous organisations, including the NSA, FIRST, the Pentagon, the FBI Academy, the President’s Telecommunications Advisory Committee, MS-ISAC, the Navy War College and the British CESG.

According to the SANS Director, based on the available evidence, it is extremely likely that every large organisation will experience an information security breach at some point in time.  According to the influential Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR)  which has examined over 100,000 security breaches over the last decade, 81% of the incidents can be described by just 4 root causes namely miscellaneous errors (27%), insider misuse (19%), crimeware (19%) and physical theft/loss (16%).

The biggest factor “miscellaneous errors” is, according to the report, simply any mistake that compromises security. The main threat comes from human error, such as accidentally posting private data to a public site, sending information to the wrong recipients, or failing to dispose of documents or assets securely. However, lack of security awareness also has a part to play in insider misuse, physical theft and lost incidents.

“In the past organisations have had security awareness programs, but these were compliance driven programs designed by auditors to ensure their organisation could ‘check the box’.  These programs consisted of nothing more than a once year Power Point presentation or some very basic Computer Based Training (CBT),” says Spitzner, “In recent years, organisations have begun a fundamental shift on how they approach awareness and training.  They are building mature security awareness programs that identify and change high-risk human behaviours.”

Spitzner advocates the first task is gaining support of management and answering the key questions of Who?, What? and How? “Once you have a program rolled out you will need the ability to measure it.  Measuring provides several things.  First it helps you identify where your greatest risks are and where you need to focus your efforts.  Second, it can be used to demonstrate the value of the program to senior management, gaining you the support you need to keep the program long term,” he adds.

To further support ECSM, Spitzner is running a webinar session offering a step-by-step walk through of how to take your security awareness program to the next level. The session covers key points including how to leverage the Security Awareness Maturity Model, how to effectively engage people, and how to measure change in behaviour and communicate those results to management. Registration is available via

SANS ‘Securing The Human’ is a partner and supporter of ECSM and has also made available a set of community resources on how to build a high-impact security awareness program developed as community projects by hundreds of different security awareness officers available via  Details regarding SANS training course, “Building High Impact Security Awareness Programs”, can found here:

About SANS Institute
The SANS Institute was established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization. SANS is the most trusted and, by far, the largest provider of training and certification to professionals at governments and commercial institutions world-wide.  Renowned SANS instructors teach over 50 different courses at more than 200 live cyber security training events as well as online.  GIAC, an affiliate of the SANS Institute, validates employee qualifications via 27 hands-on, technical certifications in information security.  The SANS Technology Institute, a regionally accredited independent subsidiary, offers master’s degrees in cyber security.  SANS offers a myriad of free resources to the InfoSec community including consensus projects, research reports, and newsletters; it also operates the Internet’s early warning system–the Internet Storm Center. At the heart of SANS are the many security practitioners, representing varied global organizations from corporations to universities, working together to help the entire information security community. (




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