How to Solve the 5 Biggest Security Awareness Training Challenges

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Positive security outcomes don’t happen by chance — they result from a culture in which security is ingrained and embodied within and by everyone, from the executives through the employees.

This fact has led to an overdue shift in organizational thinking, with recent research revealing that 88% of global organizations currently use some form of security awareness program, with another 10% in the process of adopting such a program within the next 12 months.

However, it’s important to note that not all security awareness training programs are created equal. In fact, that same research reveals that 51% of the organizations currently using a security awareness program are on a monthly cadence, and 7% only require users to engage in training on a yearly, check-the-compliance-box cadence. Since the average person forgets 80% of what they’ve learned after four weeks unless reinforced , this means well over half of the organizations using security awareness training are not getting the benefits they should be.

A comprehensive security awareness program can help users understand how they can be targeted and how they are a critical line of defense against threat actors and breach attempts. Let’s examine what security awareness is, the elements of a successful program, and how to overcome the biggest challenges you’ll face in implementation, management, and employee engagement.

What Is Security Awareness?

Security awareness is a standardized process that provides employees, with cybersecurity education. Security awareness training is designed to prepare users to recognize and neutralize social engineering attacks and human error, reducing an organization’s human risk, and is a core pillar of proactive security operations.

A security awareness training program, integral to security awareness, is the compilation of compliance training, phishing simulations, and any efforts (videos, quizzes, events, content) created to grow employees’ knowledge and application of security best practices, as well as meet individual compliance requirements.

A strong security awareness training program includes regularly scheduled training on current trends and topics via short lessons that leverage microlearning to maximize retention and engagement, plus up-to-date instructions on how to report and respond to suspicious activity, and robust phishing simulations based on real-world examples.

Why Organizations Need Security Awareness Training

No matter how much innovative cybersecurity technology and expertise organizations leverage to protect themselves from cyber attack, employees remain vulnerable to phishing, other social engineering tactics, and attacks aimed at stealing passwords and user credentials. In fact, the 2024 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that the human element is involved in 68% of breaches.

Ultimately, untrained — or poorly trained — employees are just as much of a risk to your organization’s cybersecurity as an unguarded endpoint . To protect themselves, and your organization, all employees need to learn how to recognize when they’re the target of an attack and know what to do, and what not to do, when one strikes.

For this reason, most organizations provide, or are soon planning to provide, security awareness training to employees. But given how often threat actors find success with social engineering attacks, there’s plenty of room for improvement. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest challenges for security awareness programs — and how to solve them.

The Biggest Security Awareness Program Challenges

Challenge #1: Security Awareness Training Content Becomes Outdated Fast

Cybersecurity threats constantly evolve. This means that what companies do to protect themselves today may not stand up to the threats that emerge tomorrow. That also means employee security awareness programs can quickly become outdated and obsolete, failing to educate employees about the current threats and how to recognize them.

While many security principles are timeless and foundational, employees must also stay informed on the most recent events and techniques. Otherwise, a simple mistake could become disastrous. As a result, courses offered annually have no way of keeping up.

Best Practice Solution

Cybercriminals don’t wait a year before updating their skills. Neither should employees. Security awareness programs can’t be one-and-done lessons delivered at employee orientation, yearly compliance box-checking or even monthly lessons. They must be ongoing, dynamic courses and tools with multiple monthly touchpoints that continually incorporate new material based on evolving threats, providing effective instruction using the latest training techniques.

Challenge #2: Security Awareness Programs are a Burden on Administrators

Security awareness programs can be a lot of work for administrators. At minimum, the administrator is responsible for selecting and assigning courses, following up with users, and dealing with related chores such as resetting passwords.

In some cases, the administrator is also responsible for creating and curating content, an extremely labor-intensive process. As a result, administrators can frequently become overwhelmed by the manual process of running a security awareness training tool.

Best Practice Solution

Use a security awareness program that’s fully managed. Managed programs remove the legwork of creating, assigning, and delivering an ongoing awareness curriculum. Not only does a managed program free up the administrator to focus on other important tasks, but it also ensures the security awareness content is kept up to date, complete, and of high quality.

Challenge #3: Security Awareness Programs Have Low Employee Participation

Many security awareness solutions seem almost designed to discourage participation. Keep in mind that, the harder it is for users to access lessons, the less likely they are to complete them.

For programs that require ongoing learning — as all programs should — employees typically need to log in between one and four times a month to complete their training. Additional friction comes when employees must physically go to a specific location at specific times.

Content that varies in length from session to session frustrates employees, since they don’t know what to expect or how much time they need to budget. For busy employees, their frustration risks getting to a point where they come to resent the program and simply avoid it.

Best Practice Solution

Remove resistance from program participation wherever possible. Instead of requiring attendance at particular times or particular places, make the course content as convenient as possible, weaving it into employees’ daily routines rather than making it a burdensome addition. Establish a short, consistent content length so employees never dread being stuck in a session while their to-dos continue to pile up.

To ensure their effectiveness, programs should seamlessly integrate into the routines and schedules of employees, ideally being delivered straight to their inbox without the need for another platform with a username and password to remember.

Challenge #4: Employees Lose Interest in Security Awareness

Security awareness content needs to stay engaging to keep an employee’s attention. Unfortunately, many programs use training content that’s repetitive, uninteresting or tries to include too much information or cover too many topics in one session. If an employee finds a course ineffective at teaching them what they need to know and why they need to know it, they will find ways to avoid participating at all.

Best Practice Solution

Select a program that offers fresh, relevant, and stimulating content. Enlist well-established training techniques such as interactivity, clarity, relevance, and a judicious use of video to be both informative and engaging. Don’t ask employees to sit through the same session they sat through six months ago as a refresher; instead offer new content that builds on prior material with a new perspective.

Challenge #5: Employees Forget What They’ve Learned

Science says that when asked to learn new material, learners will forget up to 80% of what they’ve learned in less than a month without reinforcement. A security awareness course offered once a year, or even once a month, means employees forget most of what they’ve learned from your training program, leaving the organization vulnerable to social engineering attacks and other user-based threats.

Programs with multiple monthly touchpoints do better in helping employees retain security knowledge, but these sessions must also be relevant and engaging or employees won’t fully engage with, or retain, the information.


Introduce microlearning, which strategically breaks content into frequent, engaging lessons of five minutes or less. Refreshing a learner’s memory soon after first being exposed to new material is the key to retention, and microlearning is designed to be efficient and effective at doing so. Since lessons are short, microlearning also requires the content to be relevant and focused on one key concept, which also boosts retention.

How Arctic Wolf Can Help

Arctic Wolf Managed Security Awareness® is designed to solve all these challenges. Delivered as a concierge service, Managed Security Awareness delivers compelling, microlearning techniques on a frequent basis, relieves administrative burdens, ensures employees retain content, and helps build a security culture that spans the organization.

Experience what it’s like to become an Arctic Wolf Managed Security Awareness customer and find out how an ongoing program can change your organization’s culture. Watch our on-demand webinar to discover how to create a strong security awareness program.

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Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf provides your team with 24x7 coverage, security operations expertise, and strategically tailored security recommendations to continuously improve your overall posture.
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