The Role of Employee Training in Cybersecurity for Banks

Two employees are at their computers receiving cybersecurity training.

It’s 6:23 PM on a Friday, and it has been a long week at the office.

Before heading home, an employee checks his email a final time.

He opens a message from your bank’s IT department:

Subject: Password Update (Final Notice)

From: John @ IT Team

Your password expires in 48 hours. This is your third and final reminder.

To update credentials, log in to the portal below. 

Sincerely,

John

IT HelpDesk

Not wanting to get locked out, he clicks the link, enters his old password, then creates a new one.

There’s just one problem. 

Your IT department never sent that email—cybercriminals did.

And now that they have your employee’s credentials, a data breach is underway

As outlandish as it may seem, that scenario is a constant reality in our digital world

In fact, that’s how JPMorgan Chase got breached in 2014. After an employee had their password stolen, 83 million bank customers were exploited.

In the decade since, hackers have made a concerted effort to exploit bank employees around the world. As we’ll discuss below, they’ve been very successful in those efforts.

When it comes to cybersecurity in banking, training is essential to keeping your team, customers, and reputation safe. 

Cybersecurity Training Defined 

Cybersecurity training delivers a comprehensive and ongoing commitment to data protection. 

Rather than a one-off workshop, the goal of cybersecurity training should be to create a culture of safety

Though IT departments lead the vanguard of security stakeholders, cybersecurity employee training should involve every member of an organization

This includes on-site employees, remote workers, contractors, and even third-party vendors. 

On a high level, cybersecurity training regularly identifies and updates the best practices for data and record management, password safety, and incident response (IR). 

In addition to helping staff recognize phishing and spoofing attacks, advanced cybersecurity training programs simulate data breaches to test the company’s mean time to response (MTTR). 

Considering the average breach takes 277 days to identify and contain, such simulations can deliver tremendous value in reducing MTTR. 

As attack methods evolve, security protocols must be equally adaptive. 

Though robust and rigorous, cybersecurity employee training still leaves room for the most complex security element of all: the human factor. 

The Human Factor in Cybersecurity

Your employees are your first line of defense.

They’re also your biggest vulnerability. 

That’s not fear mongering—it’s a fact. According to the World Economic Forum, 95% of cyberattacks involve human error.  

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, hackers leverage sophisticated social engineering schemes to exploit human weaknesses and induce lapses in judgment. 

Accidents happen all the time.

Sometimes, employees click on a counterfeit link. In other cases, they fall for a spoofed domain and divulge sensitive data. Or, they might leave their laptop open at work for a sinister visitor to access. 

Whether malicious or accidental, insider threats cost firms an average of $16.2 million a year. Employees need to know what they’re up against. 

They have to understand that company email isn’t just a convenient tool. It’s a portal to perpetual phishing attacks and data breaches. 

They must understand that cyberattacks aren’t a far-off risk, but an ever-present danger to themselves, their customers, and their company as a whole. 

Above all, your employees need to know that cybercriminals aren’t living on the fringe of society. They are participants in a lucrative shadow industry that nets billions of dollars a year. 

True cybersecurity training doesn’t come with an on/off switch. It’s a practice that embraces the human factor with all its flaws and fortes. 

Remember: your employees are your first line of defense. Equip them with the tools needed to become confident warriors in the digital world. 

Benefits of Cybersecurity Training

There are several major benefits to cybersecurity training. 

Though it takes time to implement adequate standards, your upfront investment will promote proper cybersecurity best practices and yield a company-wide ROI.

From financial savings to reputational enhancement, here are the five leading benefits of cybersecurity training:

1. Reduced Threat Exposure

Cyberattacks are proliferating, and the financial sector is a primary target for hackers.  Between 2021 and 2022, financial institutions were victims to over 4,300 cyber incidents

Recent studies show the situation is getting worse.

While ransomware attacks increased 8% in 2023, DDoS schemes are up a whopping 40%

Bank employees can stem the tide of cyberattacks—and it doesn’t take much to make a difference.

In fact, just by knowing how to identify suspicious emails, employees can reduce phishing attacks by 60%

Once employees know what to look for (and how to report it), you’ll create a culture of defense and reduce your threat exposure.  

2. Enhanced Incident Response 

Like sharks in the oceans, cyberattacks are part of the digital ecosystem. 

Therefore, companies need an Incident Response Plan (IRP) to mitigate the damages of a breach.  

Employee cybersecurity training delivers the step-by-step protocols needed to identify, contain, and eradicate a cyberattack.

On the one hand, training reduces the internal chaos active breaches often cause. Clarity of purpose is a powerful byproduct of cybersecurity education.

More importantly, however, your IRP will dramatically reduce downtime inflicted by an attack. After all, breaches don’t just take your network offline—they take your business offline. 

When your employees are trained, prepared, and proactive, they can face uncertainty with a tangible plan of action. More importantly, they can spend their working hours focused on what matters most: serving your clients. 

3. Increased Financial Savings

By 2025, global cyberattacks will cost over $10.5 trillion.

Though that’s a mind-numbing statistic, there’s hope on the horizon: employee education and training can help reduce the cost of a data breach. 

In fact, even individual changes can yield massive rewards. For example, firms that implement an Incident Response Plan (IRP) save $2.66 million more than firms that don’t.

These financial benefits can flow through an entire company. 

For example, consider an IT team burdened by the mistakes of an untrained staff. 

Rather than focusing on potential threats, your IT specialists spend precious business hours fixing avoidable errors. That’s not just costly—it’s dangerous. 

However, when your employees are trained, your IT team can focus on defending your firm. In fact, you’ll not only extract more value from IT expertise, but you’ll reduce the potential of a data breach—the average of which cost firms $4.45 million in 2023

Still, there are other ways to calculate cybersecurity ROI. 

Consider the aftermath of a cyberattack. If a data breach takes months to contain (as statistics show), the disruption to your business could be enormous.

Simply multiply your average daily revenue by the number of days spent recovering from a breach—a calculation you never want to have to make. 

While cybersecurity employee training often requires a significant financial investment, it will ultimately cost far less than the damage caused by a data breach.  

4.  Improved Organizational Compliance 

Though cybersecurity regulations are helpful, non-compliance can have disastrous effects for banks—both in terms of regulatory censure and threat exposure. 

As we discussed in our guide to cybersecurity compliance, regulatory agencies won’t hesitate to fine institutions with inadequate security protocols. 

In 2022, for example, the USAA Federal Savings Bank was fined $140 million for violating the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).

Ultimately, compliance depends on organizational adherence, and organizations depend on employee discipline. Within this symbiotic relationship, noncompliance by even one employee can expose the entire company.

That’s why cybersecurity training is so valuable: because it ensures that employees understand compliance expectations and have the confidence to fulfill them.

If you teach staff how to safely use, transport, and store confidential data, they can protect your bank from damages and advance your security protocols. 

5.  Strengthened Customer Confidence

Online banking isn’t just about convenience—it’s about security. 

As cyberattacks escalate, consumers will value banks that demonstrate a genuine commitment to data security. According to recent surveys, over 36% of customers want their banks to demonstrate more visible security measures. 

In fact, studies show that 87% of customers would stop engaging with a business that lacks sufficient security protocols. 

Fortunately, cybersecurity training goes hand-in-hand with consumer confidence. 

By investing in employee education, your bank will show customers how seriously you take data protection. As a result, your dedication to best practices and compliance regulations will increase trust from clients and prospects alike. 

Employee Cybersecurity Training: Focus Points

If you’re looking to invest in cybersecurity training programs, you’ll find that many vendors are competing for your attention. That’s a good thing.

According to a McKinsey report, the cybersecurity market could soon reach $2 trillion. Such growth is a direct response to the rise of attacks. 

Cybersecurity tools and training are getting more advanced by the day. 

Whether you hire a third-party provider or develop your own security protocols, consider the following focus points as you train your employees.

1. Understand the Status Quo

Organizations often make a fatal mistake when they approach cybersecurity employee training.

They forget that customization is crucial. While teaching best practices, they overlook their company culture and apply one-size-fits-all plans rather than tailored prescriptions. 

Before training starts, make sure you have a thorough understanding of your employees. Know their expertise, identify their skill gaps, and point out potential areas for improvement.

Though cybersecurity in banking is quite technical, it’s also deeply human.

The better you understand the status quo, the more effectively you can improve it.

2. Prioritize Clarity Over Complexity

Successful cybersecurity training separates the signal from the noise. 

While it’s easy to dramatize bank breaches and cyberattacks, your employees deserve a clear and concise education. They need to:

  1. Know where they’re vulnerable and how cyberattacks occur.
  2. Understand your expectations for company security.
  3. Learn their specific role within company protocols. 

To that end, avoid technical jargon and convey concepts in as simple a manner as possible

If particular employees want to take the lead on company cybersecurity protocols or become subject matter experts, that’s great. 

In most cases, however, employees simply need to receive relatable, empowering, and actionable advice to help protect your bank. 

3. Encourage Collaboration Over Condemnation

In this article, we have explored the extent to which human error enables cyberattacks. 

While essential to know, many of the aforementioned statistics could be discouraging to bank employees.

Harsh lectures on insider threats could create a culture where staff sees themselves as liabilities, rather than as key players within your cybersecurity framework. 

To that end, we recommend building a training program that prioritizes collaboration and compliance over punishment and fear. 

Human error is inevitable, and it’s advisable to create a learning environment that is synergistic and supportive without being militant.

You may also consider providing incentives for employees who practice sound cyber hygiene. Special attention and rewards can go a long way towards strengthening security. 

4.   Empower Your Remote Employees 

Though a boon for convenience, remote work has broadened the reach of hackers. 

That’s why over 60% of companies have reported an increase in cyberattacks since the pandemic. 

While it’s easy to prioritize your in-person staff, make sure your remote employees—and even your contractors—are always included in cybersecurity employee training

Teach them about the rise of brute force attacks on remote desktop protocols (RDP), and encourage their consistent use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) and virtual private networks (VPN). 

While strengthening your remote teams, be sure to vet your third-party software providers and request information on their security policies.

After all, anyone who handles your customer data operates as your surrogate. They must have state-of-the-art protocols.

As we learned with the infamous MOVEit breach, vulnerable third-party providers can cause significant financial and reputational damage to their partner banks. 

5.   Address Technological Vulnerabilities 

While embracing the human factor, cybersecurity training must address the usage of devices.

Your staff must understand that corporate devices are gateways to your bank’s network. More importantly, they’re what hackers target to initiate a data breach.  

Therefore, employees must handle company smartphones, tablets, and computers with the highest level of care—at the office, on the road, and at home. 

Don’t hesitate to institute strict rules that allow for constant monitoring of work accounts. 

Restrict installations of unauthorized software, and make it mandatory for company devices to feature web content filtering. 

Furthermore, be diligent to teach your staff how to spot spam, spoofing, and phishing attacks. As we’ve discussed, email is the leading vector of cyberattack. 

If your employees are vigilant about protecting their emails (and reporting suspicious content), your cybersecurity training will succeed. 

6.   Develop Incident Response Plans (IRPs)

Cyberattacks are inevitable, and all companies must have contingencies at the ready. 

Incident Response Plans are essential because you can build them before you need them. 

Once they’re in place, you can test and tweak them along the way. 

There are four steps within a general IRP framework:

  1. Preparation: develop a baseline of “normal” network activity and craft responses to a range of cyberattacks.
  2. Detection and analysis: flag, monitor, and study suspicious activity (while you filter out false positives).
  3. Containment: isolate and prevent active breaches from spreading.
  4. Eradication: remove the threat from your system and destroy it. 

While your IRP will involve your employees, it may also necessitate implementing specific cybersecurity tools. 

These items include endpoint detection and response (EDR), user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA), data loss prevention (DLP), and others.

Some security tools now leverage artificial intelligence to help employees expand threat surveillance, detection, and containment. These tools are well worth your consideration. 

7. Audit and Test Your Efforts

Cybersecurity training isn’t a box to check—it’s a practice to maintain

With that in mind, ensure that the results of your cybersecurity employee training are measurable:

  • Routinely audit your team’s adherence to protocols.
  • Increase what’s working, and eliminate what’s not. 
  • Ensure your employee training is yielding a solid ROI.

After your security framework is established, you can even test your team’s resilience with mock cyberattacks and learn how they respond under pressure. 

This isn’t cruel entertainment, it’s the way of the future. 

In fact, major cybersecurity consortiums regularly simulate cyberwars to test organizational preparation. 

When you keep your staff ready (and your security framework flexible), you curb the risks of complacency. 

Protect Your Domain With .Bank 

Your employees are on the frontlines of cybersecurity. 

While training is fundamental, you can support your staff in ways that workforce education, alone, can’t match. 

By moving your bank from an unrestricted domain to a .Bank domain, you’ll instantly add a layer of cybersecurity that stops hackers from toying with your business. 

Every day, phishing and spoofing attacks try to fool your staff into trusting fake emails from fraudulent domains. 

These shameless hackers will steal your logos, resources, and even your fonts to look legitimate. Their goal is clear: to con employees into divulging credentials and open the door to attack. 

With a .Bank domain, you’ll never have to deal with lookalike emails or websites ever again.

Our domains are built exclusively for banks, so you, your team, and your clients always know what’s real (and what’s not).

After all, if it doesn’t say .Bank, it’s not your bank. 

Find out why 800+ banks have moved to a .Bank domain. 

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