When it comes to OT cybersecurity, investing in secure software will only get you so far. OT cyberattacks come in many forms, so in addition to the digital element, your company needs to prepare for attacks targeting the human element of your business, AKA, your employees. The #1 way to accomplish this?—OT cybersecurity training.
Discover the many ways your company can benefit from investing in OT cybersecurity training, and how to shape your training program to maximize its effectiveness.
Why Invest in OT Cybersecurity Training?
Attackers don’t just target tech systems directly—they usually go after the humans running them. These methods usually involve social engineering tactics such as phishing, meant to trick employees into revealing private data or deploying malware. As a result, a reported 88% of data breaches are caused by human error. What’s even more concerning is that a majority of cybercrimes go unreported, even for businesses where reporting is mandatory. This indicates that cybersecurity incidents are astronomically higher than suggested by public data.
So how does a company successfully defend its OT systems knowing just how widespread the threats are? OT cybersecurity training may be the solution. Focused on tackling human error, OT cybersecurity training teaches employees how to spot and prevent attacks to industrial control systems. Cybersecurity training typically has a high return on investment, with Forrester reporting an 83.3% reduction in risky behavior following training. Additionally, research shows that for mid-sized companies, the return on investment for cybersecurity training averages 69% for small security incidents and a whopping 248% for large-scale incidents. The benefits aren’t just financial, either. Curbing cybersecurity incidents with training will help preserve consumer trust in your business and minimize harsh reputational consequences.
For most companies, it comes down to this: can you afford not to invest in OT cybersecurity training? Given the rise in OT cyberattacks and their extreme physical, financial, and reputational costs, many would argue that training is non-negotiable. However, not every company has a choice in the matter. Some companies are forced to learn the hard way, and turn to OT cybersecurity training only after a costly breach. Others may be required to offer cybersecurity training under federal or state law. Whatever the reason, OT cybersecurity training is almost always a smart investment that generates high returns.
Elements of Successful OT Cybersecurity Training
For companies that decide to go ahead and invest in OT cybersecurity training, another problem often arises. How do you create engaging training that does more than just check a legal or regulatory box? For best results, consider including these learning tools in your OT cybersecurity training:
1. Scenario-Based Learning
Scenario-based learning puts employees into realistic situations they may encounter on the job and allows them to practice how they would react. This activity hones the learner’s critical thinking and decision-making skills, so they are more prepared to face these situations in the real world. What’s useful about scenario-based learning is that it provides instantaneous feedback and allows employees to make mistakes and gain exposure to negative outcomes in a safe environment. Not only that, but incorporating scenario-based activities boosts learner engagement and retention more than traditional training methods.
2. Simulation-Based Learning
Similar to scenario-based learning, simulations provide experiential learning that allows employees to practice tasks in a controlled setting. However, whereas scenarios might just consist of a text-based explanation, simulations are typically much more immersive, using visuals to replicate the workplace’s systems and tools. Custom training is even more effective, as employees can interact with digital replicas of the company’s specific networks and industrial equipment. For OT cybersecurity training, employees might receive a simulated phishing message to gain hands-on experience identifying suspicious emails.
Just because a training program is informative doesn’t make it interesting. Enter: gamification. Gamification uses game mechanics (storylines, levels, rewards) to create a more immersive, exciting learning experience. However, gamification isn’t just for fun—it’s a proven learning tool. Gamified training boosts productivity, motivation, and even the speed at which employees learn. Both companies and their employees can reap numerous benefits from a gamified approach to OT cybersecurity training.
As the human attention span shrinks to shorter than a goldfish’s (approximately 8 seconds), more and more companies are taking advantage of short-form training. Microlearning is one such corporate learning tool, consisting of short training sessions usually no longer than 10 minutes. Microlearning can easily be linked together to form a more in-depth training program, integrated into a pre-existing training course, or stand alone. Brief but powerful, microlearning’s focused nature helps prevent employees from being overwhelmed by too much information all at once. Companies can get even smaller with “nanolearning,” an even more condensed version of microlearning no more than a few minutes. These mini modules provide a low-budget alternative for the modern workforce that employees can complete anywhere, anytime.
5. Spaced Learning
Employees forget 50% of what you’ve taught them within an hour, 70% within 24 hours, and 90% within a week. This phenomenon, known as the “forgetting curve,” might make employee training seem like a pointless endeavor. However, many strategies exist to help combat the forgetting curve and create “sticky” learning experiences. By spacing out your training over time, employees are much more likely to retain what you’ve taught them. Spaced learning usually goes hand-in-hand with microlearning, as its bite-sized modules lend themselves well to a spaced learning format.
Protect Your OT Systems Today
Employee training is a critical but vastly underutilized component of OT cybersecurity. In fact, 43% of employees report that they do not receive regular cybersecurity training, with 8% receiving no training at all. OT-specific training is even less common than traditional IT training, despite the increase in OT cyberattacks and the vulnerability of OT systems. These training gaps leave more room for costly and dangerous cyberattacks and demonstrate a need for more robust OT cybersecurity training. This risk is heightened for small businesses, 60% of which go out of business within six months of a cyberattack.
If your company does not issue regular OT cybersecurity training, now is the time to reassess. Take stock of your company’s specific cybersecurity risk areas, mapping out the potential threats, consequences, and recovery time of an OT cyberattack. Assigning this estimate a financial cost will help your company visualize how much it stands to lose from a cyberattack, not to mention the unquantifiable loss of customer trust and business reputation. Even a rough estimate can help determine how much to budget on cybersecurity training that mitigates risk.
Need help getting started with your OT cybersecurity training? Contact our team of learning experts for custom training solutions that meet your specific business needs.