Lack of cyber security awareness among employees putting UK organizations at risk

Lack of cyber security awareness among employees putting UK organizations at risk


UK organizations are putting their reputation, customer trust and competitive advantage at greater risk by failing to provide their staff with effective cyber security awareness and capability to defend against cyber attacks, according to the latest research from AXELOS.

Research into organizations’ approach to information security awareness conducted by AXELOS* – a UK Government/Capita joint venture – reveals that most are underestimating the “human factor” of employee behaviour in corporate cyber risk. The finding is a cause for concern as UK Government research found that 75% of large organizations suffered staff-related security breaches in 2015, with 50% of the worst breaches caused by human error**.

AXELOS’ research showed that only a minority of executives responsible for information security training in organizations with more than 500 employees believe their cyber security training is “very effective”. While four in 10 (42%) say their training is “very effective” at providing general awareness of information security risks, only just over a quarter (28%) say their efforts are “very effective” at changing behaviour in relation to information security.

For ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, 37% rate their training as very effective though only a third (33%) rate it very effective in reducing exposure to the risk of information security breaches. A similar minority (32%) are “very confident” that the training is relevant to staff, despite almost all respondents (99%) citing security awareness as important to minimise the risk of security breaches.

When asked how many staff had completed their information security awareness programme, respondents in a quarter of organizations said that no more than 50% of staff had done so.

Nick Wilding, head of cyber resilience best practice at AXELOS, said: “Despite organizations continuing to invest heavily in technology to better protect their precious information and systems, the number and scale of attacks continues to rise as they discover there is no ‘silver bullet’ to help them achieve their desired level of cyber security.

“And they often underestimate that the role that their own employees – from the boardroom to the frontline – can play: staff should be their most effective security control but are typically one of their greatest vulnerabilities.”

While praising UK organizations for acknowledging the importance of information security awareness learning Wilding warned that current training and awareness approaches often aren’t effective.

He said: “Though 32% of organizations are very confident about the relevance of the training they provide, there are nearly two-thirds (62%) that are only ‘fairly confident’. Cyber-attacks are now business as usual and the resulting financial and reputational damage can be significant. As a result, organizations need to be more certain that they are engaging their people effectively to better equip them to manage the cyber and information security risks they now all face.

“Imagine how customers would respond if told that ‘we’re fairly confident that your precious information is safe from attack’. Equally, reporting to a board of directors that the level of confidence in the organization’s information security awareness is only “fair” would be given short shrift. If UK company boards are not asking those responsible about the current effectiveness of their awareness learning among their people and what is being done to improve their cyber resilience, then they should be.”

AXELOS’ RESILIA™ cyber resilience best practice portfolio includes certified training, awareness learning for all staff, leadership insight and a maturity assessment tool. Its awareness learning programme for all staff helps to fill critical knowledge and skills gaps, enabling employees to make the right decisions at the right time about information security.

AXELOS has produced a downloadable guide to help directors and managers responsible for information awareness learning and associated staff training evaluate the effectiveness of their current approaches and highlight potential improvements to managing improved cyber resilient behaviours.

Download AXELOS' guide, Are your people playing an effective role in your cyber resilience? (PDF, 165KB).

See our RESILIA section for more information about cyber resilience.


*Research conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of AXELOS using an online panel of business executives who have agreed to take part in research surveys. Fieldwork conducted between January 5 and January 14 2016 with 100 business executives with responsibility for information security awareness training at their organization. Participants work at organizations with 500+ employees.

**HM Government 2015 Information Security Breaches Survey conducted by PwC.


Cyber resilience and your employees

Are your people playing an effective role in your cyber resilience - AXELOS guide

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