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Often, the cheapest and most effective weapon an MSP can deploy against hackers and malware isn’t new software or a cure-all patch, it is knowledge. And while knowledge is free, the time and resources put into it are not. Still, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, user training is highly effective. In fact, statistics show that security-related risks are reduced by 70 percent when businesses invest in cybersecurity training and awareness.

But information that isn’t effectively shared with others is like shouting into a canyon – no one will hear it. So, how can MSPs make user cybersecurity training more effective? Here are five tips:

Keep it simple

As an MSP owner, you live, eat, breathe, and sleep IT. But most people aren’t you, and those who can use training the most know the least. “So, MSP owners brimming with knowledge about systems and security often overwhelm other people with their knowledge,” says Carlton Barnes, a cybersecurity instructor in Nevada.

“Most people don’t know about kernels, shells, BIOS or Linux,” warns Barnes. “All these terms that are part of your daily vocabulary are like a foreign language to the average person, so shelve all that and stick with the basics. If you want to have more advanced training for those employees with a bit more knowledge, then feel free.”

An effective cybersecurity presentation will explain the topic so that an elementary school student can understand it. “Because most people, obviously there are exceptions, have a very elementary understanding of cybersecurity,’ Barnes shares.

Make it entertaining and/or engaging

There’s a lot of competition for attention in today’s world and people don’t want to be bored. Instead of talking about the firewall and lateral movement in the network, make cybersecurity fun using emojis. Or you could talk about how someone in human resources planning their baby shower accidentally clicked a phishing email instead of ordering party hats.

Games, charts, props, and anything to make the presentations visually appealing and engaging are a good start. “I saw one cybersecurity presentation where the two experts came in, one dressed as a fox the other dressed in a chicken costume to illustrate the fox in henhouse consequences of a hacker getting in,” Barnes recalls. “It seemed odd to see these characters in front of a room full of accountants and budget analysts, but everyone was laughing and engaged. I think they came away from that presentation with a lasting impression.”

Be quick

People are busy. This is important, but so are budget meetings, Zoom calls, and after-school soccer schedules. You can do a lot in a half hour, but do more than that, and people will get resentful. They’ll tune you out; they’ll turn their attention elsewhere or start scrolling through their Facebook feed.

“Be fun, fast, and effective in your presentation, or you’ll quickly lose your audience,” Barnes advises.

Make it actionable

“People want to feel like they are doing something to contribute to the organization’s cybersecurity,” Barnes says. “People, in general, like the direction at work.”

Therefore, it is important to give people actionable items in the form of a “cybersecurity checklist.” A few quick tasks that they can do, for example, include:

  • Change passwords once a month
  • Don’t use social media at work
  • Don’t do work on personal devices

“Those are just some basics, but everyone can perform those tasks. Each step someone takes may not seem like a big deal by itself, but it is a big deal if everyone does them. Cybersecurity is like a giant rowboat, and it only gets somewhere when everyone picks up an oar,” Barnes continues.

Create stakeholders out of workers

Finally, it is important to communicate how ransomware, malware, and the like can impact people on a personal level.

“People are inherently self-interested. Suppose you talk about how the company will lose $5 million. That might not resonate when they struggle to pay their rent, and the company CEO has three homes. Instead, talk about how the company losing money impacts bonuses, vacation time, and benefits,” Barnes says, adding that instilling corporate pride is vital so that everyone wants to protect the organization. “Effective cybersecurity training should make everyone into a mother hen when it comes to being protective,” he concludes.

Photo: fizkes / Shutterstock

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Kevin Williams

Posted by Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is a journalist based in Ohio. Williams has written for a variety of publications including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and others. He first wrote about the online world in its nascent stages for the now defunct “Online Access” Magazine in the mid-90s.


  1. Not sure why Cybersecurity training is not high on every companies list, the easiest way to shut down a business is through some basic crafted social engineered vector


  2. Larry Horvat May 2, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    Great article


  3. Moss Jacobson May 3, 2022 at 11:55 am

    Such a critical reminder that learning must be dynamic, interesting, and uncomplicated in order to be effective. And, when it comes to security awareness training, organizations must recognize how important this is. Planting the workforce in front of a boring hour-long slide presentation 1x a year just to ‘check the box’ is in no way training. ‘Bite-sized’ on-going training has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to bring change.


  4. Great tips about making your users aware about cybersecurity.


  5. It all boils down to proper end user training. This is key.


  6. At present we are not secure on any online platform. Hackers play with your information all the time. They can hack anyone’s information at any moment. So we should make all kinds of accounts more secure.


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