How To Create A Security Awareness Training Policy (Template Included)

Banner Image: How To Create A Security Awareness Training Policy
Sebastian Salla, Chief Executive Officer at CanIPhish
Sebastian Salla Last Updated: March 01, 2024

Generate Your Tailored Security Awareness Training Policy

Image depicting a file with a checklist

What Is A Security Awareness Training Policy?

A security awareness training (SAT) policy is a formal document that establishes a framework for educating and empowering an organization's workforce in understanding, recognizing, and effectively managing information security risks.

SAT policies should align with an overarching information security strategy and address an organization's unique regulatory, compliance, and educational needs.

How To Create A Security Awareness Training Policy

What Is The Purpose Of A Security Awareness Training Policy?

A security awareness training policy aims to ensure there is a consistent educational baseline across an organization's workforce as it relates to information security. In particular, organizations use SAT policies to:

  • Reduce risk by educating employees on detecting and responding to common cybersecurity threats.
  • Ensure compliance with regulatory and cybersecurity frameworks that outline minimum training requirements based on employee responsibilities and data processed.
  • Empower employees by fostering a culture that prioritizes security and integrates it into all aspects of work.
  • Enhance reputation and trust among an organization's customers, partners, and stakeholders.

Why Is A Security Awareness Training Policy Important?

Security awareness training policies are a crucial aspect of minimizing cyber risk and meeting the requirements of regulatory and popular cybersecurity frameworks.

The importance of SAT policies needs to be recognized. They define success criteria, outline employee educational needs, and address the overall benefit to an organization for implementing a security awareness training program.

By creating, regularly updating, and adhering to an SAT policy, organizations can ensure they implement fit-for-purpose tools and processes that maximize benefits while minimizing human and financial costs.

How To Create A Security Awareness Training Policy In 5 Steps

A security awareness training policy needs to outline the purpose, scope, objectives, and unique educational requirements for employees based on the data they process and the role they perform. Each of these elements should be specific to your organization, and over the following steps, we'll outline how to do this.

Image depicting the 7-step process of creating a security awareness training policy.

Step 1. Define Your Organizational Requirements

It's a common saying, but that doesn't make it less true... Every organization is different.

The unique attributes and needs of your organization should be brought into consideration before putting a policy on paper. Some of these considerations include but are not limited to:

  • Organization Size: Small businesses face threats that are different from those of large businesses. This is particularly evident when small businesses typically have employees who wear many hats and fulfill many roles, opening the door to potential attack vectors by cyber criminals.
  • Organization Industry: Different industries operate in different ways. For example, in an organization operating in the healthcare industry, there's a much larger focus on customer data security and privacy than in retail or agriculture.
  • Geographic Location: Depending on where your organization is located, different types of tools, applications, or services may be in use. These should be considered when selecting any potential training material.
  • Spoken Language: If your organization has employees who speak many languages, you'll need to ensure your training policy addresses the linguistic requirements of these employees to ensure no one is given unsuitable training.
  • Regulatory Requirements: Your organization may need to implement training that's delivered in a particular format or addresses particular topics, depending on the regulatory requirements that need to be met.
  • Compliance Requirements: On top of regulatory requirements, your organization may align with certain cybersecurity compliance standards that again have their own training requirements.
  • Security Culture: Depending on what your end goal is and the type of security culture you're looking to implement, you may be more or less willing to implement certain types of training activities and engagement methods—for example, the use of phishing, gamification, and risk profiling.

Step 2. Outline Training Activities

Based on your organizational requirements, you may need to run various training activities, from simulated phishing to digitally assigned training to in-person instructor-led training. For your benefit, the most common types of training have been outlined below:

Security Awareness Training Activities

  • New Employee Training: When new employees join a business, they need to be brought up to the organizational security knowledge baseline. For example, suppose employees are expected to maintain an intermediate level of knowledge as it relates to information and cybersecurity. It's essential that new employees obtain this knowledge as soon as possible to minimize their risk to the business.

    As a matter of best practice, dedicated new employee training should assigned within the first two weeks of employment. This training needs to be sufficient so that any new employee can meet the organizational security knowledge baseline.

  • General Employee Training: Every employee should receive general employee training, regardless of their roles or responsibilities within the organization.

    General training is great for creating a baseline of information security knowledge that every employee should be expected to know. There are a variety of security awareness training topics that can be included, but we recommend only picking those that are relevant to your business. Topics that should be considered include:

    1. Phishing Awareness: Training on recognizing and responding to phishing attempts.
    2. Cyber Security Fundamentals: Basic principles of information security, including password management, data protection, and secure browsing.
    3. Ransomware Awareness: Understanding ransomware threats and preventive measures.
    4. Remote Working: Best practices for securing information while working remotely.
    5. Physical Security: Guidelines for protecting physical access to information systems and data.
    6. Situational Awareness: Training to be vigilant and recognize potential security threats in the work environment.
    7. Defense-in-Depth: Understanding layered security strategies and their importance.
    8. Ransomware Awareness: Reinforcing knowledge on ransomware threats and response strategies.

    It can be tempting to go on the risk-averse side of things and select every training available. Still, you want to consider the human and financial burden associated with training employees and also consider the diminishing returns of overtraining employees on similar topics.

  • Specialty Employee Training: Some domains are too specialized for the general employee, but it's essential to understand the information security implications for those who work in them. Some of these domains and the accompanying training include:

    1. Secure Credit Card Handling: For employees handling credit card information, focusing on compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
    2. Privileged Users: For IT administrators, covering advanced security practices, system monitoring, and incident response.
    3. Secure Software Development: For software developers, focusing on secure coding practices, vulnerability assessment, and code review processes.

Simulated Phishing Activities

Additionally, you may choose to supplement security awareness training with practical phishing simulations. These are great for putting employee knowledge to the test and ensuring that theoretical knowledge translates into practical situational awareness.

There are a variety of ways to conduct phishing simulations, but an approach that prioritizes higher-risk employees is recommended to ensure those most in need are provided with training.

Step 3. Define Employee Expectations

A policy is only as effective as those who follow it. Policies become quickly disregarded without any enforcement, ultimately negating the benefits they would otherwise provide.

As part of an employee's employment obligations, they should be expected to meet all requirements of the security awareness training policies, with clearly outlined non-compliance actions and corresponding penalties for repeated non-compliance.

Employee compliance obligations should be a distinct section within the security awareness training policy.

Step 4. Specify Engagement Techniques

Making security awareness training fun, engaging, and relevant can completely alter employees' perception of training activities and increase their ability to retain knowledge.

To reinforce employee engagement, the following few techniques should be introduced and formalized as part of the security awareness training policy:


To enhance the employee learning and training experience, you can utilize a badge-based gamification system to encourage positive cyber behaviors. Employees are rewarded for positive behaviors and penalized for negative behaviors through the assignment of badges.

The introduction of this gamification strategy aims to make cybersecurity training more engaging and to promote a culture where security is everyone's responsibility. By rewarding positive security actions with badges, Contoso Corp intends to foster a competitive and collaborative environment, highlighting the importance of each employee's role in maintaining Contoso Corp's cybersecurity posture.

Security Intelligence Profiling

A security intelligence profiling system can be utilized to customize and optimize cybersecurity training across the workforce. This profiling system should evaluate the cybersecurity skill levels of individual employees, categorizing them into three distinct tiers: Beginner Level, Intermediate Level, and Advanced Level. This categorization is pivotal in tailoring the complexity and focus of training assignments to match the learning needs and capabilities of each employee effectively.

Risk Profiling

You should utilize a risk-based profiling system to ensure that employees uniformly identify phishing content. This system is designed to evaluate and categorize the phishing risk each employee poses to the organization. Through comprehensive risk profiling, you can tailor simulated phishing exercises to individual employees' specific needs and risk levels.

Step 5. Define Roles & Responsibilities

Last, but not least, it's crucial to identify the roles and responsibilities of employees who need to not only adhere to this policy but also enforce it. Accordingly, the following three parties are needed to ensure the success of the security awareness training policy:

Information Security Team

The Information Security Team holds overall accountability for ensuring the security awareness training program is successful.

People Managers

Any employee who has direct responsibility for another employee, contractor, or third-party personnel is considered a people manager. People managers are responsible for promoting a cyber security culture, ensuring compliance among their employees, and providing team members support and encouragement where required.

All Employees

Any employee, contractor, or third-party personnel is ultimately accountable for ensuring they remain compliant with the requirements of this security awareness training program.

What Policies Should Accompany A Security Awareness Training Policy?

An SAT policy should be one part of an information security policy suite. Some of the other documents that should be created are as follows:

  1. Access Control Policy: Defines the rules for who can access specific resources and how access permissions are granted and managed.
  2. Asset Management Policy: Defines the procedures for managing the organization's assets (hardware, software, intellectual property) throughout its lifecycle.
  3. Business Continuity Plan: Defines strategies and procedures for maintaining essential functions during and after a disruption in normal operations.
  4. Change Management Policy: Defines a structured approach for managing changes to IT systems and processes to minimize risk and disruption.
  5. Code of Conduct: Sets forth guidelines for ethical behavior and professional conduct expected from all employees within the organization.
  6. Data Classification, Handling, and Retention Policy: Defines how to classify, handle, and retain data based on its type, sensitivity, and value to the organization.
  7. Disaster Recovery Plan: Defines the steps to be taken to quickly resume business operations after a catastrophic event.
  8. Incident Management Policy: Defines the procedures for identifying, analyzing, and managing incidents that affect the organization's IT infrastructure.
  9. Incident Response Plans: Defines a detailed plan for responding to security incidents, including roles, responsibilities, and procedures for mitigating threats.
  10. Information Security Governance Framework: Defines the structure, responsibilities, and processes to ensure information security aligns with organizational objectives.
  11. Information Security Policy: Defines the overall approach to information security, including principles, guidelines, and procedures for protecting information assets.
  12. Network Security Policy: Defines the rules and guidelines for securing the organization’s computer networks against unauthorized access and other cyber threats.
  13. Risk Management Framework: Defines the process for identifying, assessing, and addressing risks to the organization's information assets and technologies.
  14. Vendor Governance Framework: Defines the processes for selecting, managing, and monitoring third-party vendors to ensure compliance with the organization's security standards.
  15. Vulnerability Management Program: Defines the process for identifying, evaluating, treating, and reporting vulnerabilities in systems and software to reduce security risks.

It can be a significant undertaking to get all of these policies created, but fortunately, there is a wealth of resources online and within the CanIPhish website that can help you get started. Are you eager to see CanIPhish's internal policies? View our Security & Compliance Page for more information.