Security Awareness Training: Why You Need it for Your SOC 2 or ISO 27001 Audit

Is your service organization preparing for a SOC 2 or ISO 27001 audit? Then you’re probably familiar with the term security awareness training. If the term is news to you, it will inevitably cross your path at some point during your journey toward SOC 2 or ISO 27001 compliance. To prepare you for when that happens, let’s start with the basics. 

ISO 27001 compliance audit  vs SOC 2 compliance audit

Both reporting frameworks overlap and share common traits and are considered exceptional benchmarks for best practices of security compliance. One of the key differences between the two is that one (ISO 27001) is a certification, and the other (SOC 2) is an attestation based on a professional evaluation done by an independent auditor. Both audits can provide distinct benefits to your organization, and if you’re still on the fence about which one is right for your business, we recommend having a look at our in-depth comparison of the two. Another important difference to note is that SOC 2 is the preferred security framework in the US while ISO 27001 is the preferred framework in Europe. 

Regardless of which reporting framework you choose to use for your organization, it’s important to note that both consider security awareness training a compulsory requirement. Therefore, it’s vital to understand not only its importance but the value it can add to your organization, which is what we’re about to get into. 

What is security awareness training? 

When it comes to information security, your employees are your first line of defense. No organization can operate smoothly or mitigate risks without knowing how to identify and respond to them. The goal of SAT is to effectively communicate information to your employees that allow them to understand and improve their knowledge of security as well as bring awareness to the impact it has on their day-to-day responsibilities. This can be done through training programs that are specifically designed to inform, equip and cover relevant topics that include your organization’s most prominent information security risks and threats. 

Organizations need security awareness training, and here’s why!

Previously, security awareness training was considered another obligatory requirement that needed to be ticked off. The fundamental, long-term value of investing proper time and resources into the training was overlooked. However, it soon became apparent that, if done right, comprehensive security awareness training has the potential to not only ensure compliance but to keep your business secure as your employees familiarize themselves with information security principles. 

According to data breach statistics, 76% of organizations worldwide have experienced a phishing attack in the past year. However, if your critical systems remain consistently secure and functional, your organization has a fighting chance. Hence the importance of security awareness training that influences your day-to-day culture of operating securely, not just your certification. 

Choosing the right SAT program

Sadly, not all security awareness programs live up to expectations. Many offer a compliance solution but fail to test your employees’ comprehension of the covered topics or their ability to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios. So how do you ensure that your SAT ensures a behavioral change within your organization and doesn’t just talk the talk, but provides intentional tools that empower and support your employees? Here are some tips on what your program should include: 

Awareness campaigns

It takes on a proactive approach by implementing strategic awareness campaigns throughout the organization. This drives your company culture to consider security in each action they take throughout their day. 

Relevant training topics

The topics covered in your training program reflect the reality of current security risks. The content is in sync with your organization’s security policies and aligns with the scope of an employee’s job description. 

A variety of learning methodologies

People process and internalize information in different styles. The SAT program incorporates various tools and techniques and supports all the different learning styles. This includes a mixture of explanatory videos, tutorials, quizzes, and exercises. 

Employees completing their security awareness training.

SOC 2 and ISO 27001 security requirements: It’s a marathon, not a hurdle

Both ISO 27001 and SOC 2 insist that security awareness training be implemented into the long-term security policies of your organization. 

If you’re preparing for SOC 2, some of the compulsory requirements include that: 

  • Your SAT program is completed every year
  • Each employee in scope completes the full training program

Similarly, ISO 27001 looks at whether or not SAT has been implemented as a requirement for each role description in an organization and that the skills taught are implemented to ensure security as a mandatory priority for each employee. 

How to make sure your SAT is effective 

To ensure that the knowledge and skills provided to your employees won’t simply go in one ear and out the other, it’s important to tweak your training to ensure that your organizational culture remains security-focused even long after the initial training sessions. This can be encouraged by: 

Emphasizing critical training

Frequent critical training will help keep your teams sharp, prepared, and security conscious. 

Simulated exercises

Your employees may be clued up on how to identify threats and risks, but are they still familiar with what systems and response protocols to follow during a potential data breach? Allowing your employees to mitigate risk is a risk-free way of ensuring they have the necessary security training. 

Keeping it concise and relevant

By segmenting the content and making it relatable to specific teams within a security scope, you’re creating a space where learning is easy to digest and applicable. 

How security awareness training is measured

Being that it’s considered a mandatory requirement for SOC 2 and ISO 27001, it remains one of the trickier controls to measure within an organization. This is why traceability is considered a key component of any SAT program. To help gather verified evidence of SAT, be sure to keep the relevant documentation or records that prove the successful completion of each employee’s training completion. This can include a: 

  • A verified list of attendees
  • Online course registration and completion reports 
  • Quiz or internal testing results

Alternatively, you can count on us to collect evidence automatically verified for key audit standards and monitor controls 24/7. Security awareness training is included within our compliance tool, where employees can complete the training and then the results are automatically collected as evidence for your audit.

At Scytale, we understand the importance of intentional security awareness training which is why, as your trusted compliance partner, we’ve made it one of our core features. Your people are your greatest asset, let’s ensure that they aren’t just taught, but prepared. 

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