Security awareness training 101: Get your startup ready
October 1, 2021

Security awareness training 101: Get your startup ready

Fantastic news! You’re close to landing your biggest client yet. It’s the kind of opportunity that will propel your growing business into the major league.

There’s just one thing standing between you and a signed contract: your prospective customer can only work with a SOC 2-certified company. You assure your amazing would-be client that you’re on track to becoming certified and immediately type, “What is SOC 2 certification?” into Google. Five minutes later, you’re browsing vendors, attempting to determine which one can get your company ready the fastest (hint: Vanta can get you ready in weeks instead of months).

Meanwhile, you’re also trying to identify a security awareness training your employees can take in a hurry to satisfy the requirement to “communicate information to improve security knowledge and awareness.”

But what if we told you that security awareness training was more than just a hurdle to overcome on the road to SOC 2 certification? What if, instead, you viewed it as a critical investment in your people, one with the potential to empower and engage your employees and make your business more resilient in the long run?

Sound a touch hyperbolic? It’s not. Security isn’t just a compliance issue, it’s a culture issue. In this post, we’ll explore why security awareness training is essential to any growing business and what you should look for in a program.

What you’ll learn:

  • What security awareness training is.
  • Why your company needs it (it’s not just for the certification).
  • Why it’s important to establish a security-oriented culture early on in your company’s growth.
  • What you should look for in a security awareness training.
  • Which security awareness training we recommend to our clients.

What is security awareness training?

Security awareness training is any program that mitigates the risk of an infosec breach by helping your end users develop good cyber hygiene, teaching them to recognize and respond appropriately to security threats, and helping them understand their role in keeping your company’s data secure. It’s a basic requirement of security certifications like SOC 2 and HIPAA.  

Why do you need security awareness training?

Chances are, unless you’re in fintech or healthcare, you probably didn’t realize that even small and midsize startups need security awareness training. They absolutely do, and here’s why:

Being on the cloud doesn’t protect your data from exposure

Being on the cloud doesn’t automatically protect a startup’s IP—like their programs, platforms, and processes—from exposure.  Data threats are very real in the cloud, not just the physical infrastructure.

Most breaches aren’t a tech issue, they’re a people issue

More often than not, breaches happen not because of hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in software or hardware, but for much more basic reasons, like users who reuse passwords, who fail to employ MFA, or who fall for phishing attacks. In fact, with their young staff, startups are particularly vulnerable. It’s all too easy for threat actors to use vishing, email business compromise, or ransomware to part a company from its proprietary data or its money.

Why it’s important to establish a culture of security

In a nutshell, creating a culture of security is the most effective way to protect against a data breach. Since most breaches occur because of people, your people are also the solution. When you inoculate your end users by making them aware of common threats and how to avoid them, treat them as an asset instead of a liability, and actively involve them in keeping your networks and physical spaces secure, you’re on your way to establishing a thriving culture of security.

The sooner you establish these practices and values in your organization, the better off you’ll be. Why? Well, for starters, it’s much easier to establish smart systems and good cyber hygiene from the get-go than it is to try to change deeply ingrained habits. Second, it’s far easier (not to mention less traumatic and expensive) to preemptively invest in your employees’ training than it is to try to recover once a breach has already occurred.

What to look for in security awareness training

Here’s what to look for when evaluating security training for your SOC 2 certification.

Common security issues your users will face in and out of the office

At a minimum, any security awareness training program you choose should teach your employees about common security issues such as:

  • Passwords and password managers
  • MFA
  • Malware and ransomware
  • Phishing
  • Working from home (wfh)
  • Mobile security
  • Cloud security threats
  • Policy violations
  • Data classification
  • Data privacy
  • Reporting suspicious activity

How to respond when there’s been a breach

A good security awareness program should also prepare your employees to respond productively and quickly if they suspect that company devices or information may be compromised.

Empowering content that makes learning fun

There are a lot of security training programs out there that meet the bare minimum requirements. If you ask us, many of them are boring and pedantic. Some even use fear-based tactics to get their message across, which can potentially backfire. Security training is serious stuff, but nobody said it had to be painful (or scary). Luckily, in the past several years, a new generation of fun, empowering security training has hit the market.

Security awareness training that empowers startups

One trusted option for a security training vendor is Living Security. Vanta has partnered with Living Security to offer a free security awareness training for our customers through the Vanta platform. This way, companies are confident that their new employees have been trained properly to comply with SOC 2, ISO 27001, and HIPAA standards. Vanta keeps a record of employee completions for proof during your audit. Proof of security training remains even after off-boarding, for a full record of SAT compliance.

Whether you’re a current Vanta customer or you’re just starting to think about getting your SOC 2 certification, Vanta and Living Security can help your team develop the knowledge and skills necessary to protect your company’s most important assets. Request a demo or contact your customer success manager for more details.

About Living Security

Living Security is pioneering human risk management, evolving traditional security awareness training into a solution that truly mitigates risk by changing user behavior. The company’s training platform is 16 times more effective than traditional security awareness programs, and it also provides security professionals with state-of-the-art analytics that allow them to measure the direct impact training is having on their enterprise’s cybersecurity posture in near-real time. Living Security also continues to innovate, developing a new human risk identification and qualification platform, Unify, that is expected to be released in 2022. With its launch, Living Security will be the only company in the market combining interactive cybersecurity training with the insights and data to accurately measure, respond and reduce human cybersecurity risk.

Named one of Austin’s Best Places to Work, the Living Security team is composed of 90+ cybersecurity professionals committed to transforming security awareness training as we know it and turning end users into the enterprise’s greatest asset against cybercrime. Living Security is trusted by security-minded organizations like CVS Health, MasterCard, Verizon, MassMutual, Biogen, AmerisourceBergen, Hewlett Packard, JP Morgan, and Target.

About Vanta

‍Vanta is your automated security and compliance expert. Our continuous monitoring software and robust range of automated checks can help your company get SOC 2, HIPAA, or ISO 27001 compliance-ready fast — and also bolster your holistic security posture.

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PCI Compliance Selection Guide

Determine Your PCI Compliance Level

If your organization processes, stores, or transmits cardholder data, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a global mandate created by major credit card companies. Compliance is mandatory for any business that accepts credit card payments.

When establishing strategies for implementing and maintaining PCI compliance, your organization needs to understand what constitutes a Merchant or Service Provider, and whether a Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) or Report on Compliance (ROC) is most applicable to your business.

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The PCI Security Standards Council has established the below criteria for Merchant and Service Provider validation. Use these descriptions to help determine the SAQ or ROC that best applies to your organization.

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A SAQ A is required for Merchants that do not require the physical presence of a credit card (like an eCommerce, mail, or telephone purchase). This means that the Merchant’s business has fully outsourced all cardholder data processing to PCI DSS compliant third party Service Providers, with no electronic storage, processing, or transmission of any cardholder data on the Merchant’s system or premises.

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Learn more about how Vanta can help. You can also find information on PCI compliance levels at the PCI Security Standards Council website or by contacting your payment processing partner.

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