Home > Articles > CompTIA > Security+

This chapter is from the book

Explain the Importance of Security-Related Awareness and Training

  • Security policy training and procedures
  • Personally identifiable information
  • Information classification: sensitivity of data (hard or soft)
  • Data labeling, handling, and disposal
  • Compliance with laws, best practices, and standards
  • User habits
  • Threat awareness
  • Use of social networking and P2P

One of the most powerful tools available to a security administrator is the body of network users, who might notice and draw attention to unusual access methods or unexpected changes. This same body of users also creates the greatest number of potential security holes because each user might be unaware of newly emerging vulnerabilities, threats, or required standards of action and access that must be followed. Like a chain, a network is only as secure as its weakest link—and users present a wide variety of bad habits, a vast range of knowledge, and varying intent in access.

User Education

User education is mandatory to ensure that users are made aware of expectations, options, and requirements related to secure access within an organization’s network. Education can include many different forms of communication, including the following:

  • New employees and contract agents should be provided education in security requirements as a part of the hiring process.
  • Reminders and security-awareness newsletters, emails, and flyers should be provided to raise general security awareness.
  • General security policies must be defined, documented, and distributed to employees.
  • Regular focus group sessions and on-the-job training should be provided for users regarding changes to the user interface, application suites, and general policies.
  • General online security-related resources should be made available to users through a simple, concise, and easily navigable interface.

User training should ensure that operational guidelines, disaster recovery strategies, and operational mandates are clearly conveyed to users and refreshed regularly. Policies may also require refresher training during transfer between organizational components or job duties under the rotation policy. Details such as information classification, sensitivity of data and handling guidelines, legal mandates, best practices, and standards can vary widely between organizational units with the proper protocols for access, storage, and disposal varying accordingly.

User Habits and Expectations

Security awareness training is also key to managing user habits and expectations developed due to the prevalence of computing equipment at home and in their mobile devices.


Users must be instructed in the value of their access credentials and the impact that could result from sharing their passwords and logons, using weak passwords (and the ability to identify a strong password), easily guessed passwords and expectations of password expiration schedules to avoid filling up the call center the first Monday morning every 90 days.

Data Handling

User training should address legal or regulatory requirements for accessing, transporting, storing, or disposing of data and data storage devices. This includes encryption systems for mobile and removable storage devices, data access logging requirements under laws such as HIPPA, and review of the retention and destruction policy.

Clean Desk

Training should include details of the organization’s clean desk policy, encouraging users to avoid jotting down hard-to-recall passphrases or details from electronic systems that might contain PII. Users should also understand why taping a list of their logons and passwords under their keyboards is a bad idea.

Situational Awareness

User training should encourage situational awareness at all times. Unbadged individuals wandering in secured areas should be challenged, tailgating at check-points (following an authorized individual in closely to avoid having to provide personal authorization credentials) should be prevented, and guidelines for handling other forms of physical and logical security violations must be conveyed and practiced.

Personal Technologies

Common mobile computing devices, removable media storage key fobs; file-sharing systems such as Dropbox, Box.com, or SkyDrive; peer-to-peer transfer services; and even browser-based social media solutions and games can all introduce a range of vulnerabilities and threat agents to an enterprise without requiring elevated privilege or special equipment. Users must be given training in the proper use of their various personal technologies (or reasons to not use the technologies). Because this area is constantly evolving, convey reminders and updates in the regular security-awareness newsletter.

Users must be trained in critical consideration before providing logon credentials to any service, particularly those that bring personal data interaction into the work-place. Social media services are increasingly used for business purposes, so separation of business and personal accounts become critical in the event of a legal motion for discovery that could otherwise require access to personally controlled data resources. Social media services accessed through encrypted web access also offer a route through which protected information could be inadvertently disclosed without passing in readable form through normal boundary content review systems.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) services also present a danger to intellectual property and system availability protection by allowing direct connections between random endpoints using a wide variety of protocols and service ports, making firewall and packet-shaper management much more difficult for technicians and potentially sharing otherwise secure data stores to unknown parties as in the case of a misconfigured P2P client such as BitTorrent. P2P encrypted data streams can also result in contraband content being placed on a system within an organization without proper review, potentially exposing the organization to legal action based on the type of contraband.

Threat Awareness and Zero-Day Threats

Emergent viruses, worms, Trojans, rootkits, phishing attacks, and other threats should be identified and conveyed to users as rapidly as possible before dozens of calls come in asking why the “I Love You” email didn’t show its attached greeting card properly when opened. Personalized spear-phishing attacks are becoming more prevalent, requiring vigilance on the part of the users to avoid the natural response of opening everything that seems to be coming from their family members, boss, or co-workers. This must be tempered, though, as the million-plus new viral versions every year will rapidly overwhelm users into a state of helplessness or disinterest in the face of apparent inevitability. When a new Zero-Day threat emerges that has not been specifically considered in response planning, the same communication channels can be used to alert users of actions being taken by the IT group to correct, recover, repair, or patch systems and data.

Cram Quiz

Answer these questions. The answers follow the last question. If you cannot answer these questions correctly, consider reading this section again until you can.

  1. Which of the following is not going to be part of a standard password policy?

    • circle.jpg A. Establishing a minimum password length
    • circle.jpg B. Selection of a strong password
    • circle.jpg C. Establishing password expiration schedules
    • circle.jpg D. Barring keeping written passwords
  2. When conducting data handling training and reviewing disposal practices, what consideration must be primary?

    • circle.jpg A. Breaches of health and safety protocols
    • circle.jpg B. Remnants of data that may remain accessible
    • circle.jpg C. Accidental disposal of equipment that is necessary to read archived legacy data
    • circle.jpg D. Disposal costs and penalties arising from regulatory mandates
  3. _____________ training teaches users not to download links from social media sites.

    • circle.jpg A. Data handling
    • circle.jpg B. Clean desk
    • circle.jpg C. Situational awareness
    • circle.jpg D. Personal technology
  4. When an employee discovers someone wandering around a secured area without a badge or escort, which user-awareness training topic should provide them with knowledge of the proper response?
    • circle.jpg A. Data handling
    • circle.jpg B. Clean desk
    • circle.jpg C. Situational awareness
    • circle.jpg D. Personal technology

Cram Quiz Answers

  1. D. The clean desk policy includes details regarding written residue of passcodes, PII, and other sensitive data that might be jotted down during normal business. Answers A, B, and C are all incorrect because the question asks which is not a part of the password policy, and all three would be found in the password policy: password length, strength criteria, and password duration before expiration.
  2. A. Because of the materials involved in the manufacturing and construction of electronic equipment, health, and safety protocols take precedence over the other considerations. Health and safety must always come first. Answer B is incorrect because it is concerned with data confidentiality. Answer C is incorrect because it is concerned with data availability, and answer D is incorrect because it focuses on risks and costs arising from regulation.
  3. D. Personal technology training should cover social networks, peer-to-peer networking, and mobile technologies owned by the employees but present in the workplace. Answer A is incorrect because the data handling training would be focused on how to manage data stored on organizational systems rather than personal ones. Answer B is incorrect because the clean desk policy provides guidance for data sanitization of the work environment. Answer C is incorrect because situational awareness training involves developing strategies and skills for dealing with physical access violations and similar events rather than addressing which personal technologies are appropriate and how they should be used properly.
  4. C. Situational-awareness training focuses on strategies and skills for dealing with physical access violations, variations from normal operational routines, and similar events. Answer A is incorrect because data handling training is focused on how to manage data stored on organizational systems rather than how to deal with unauthorized personnel in secure areas. Answer B is incorrect because the clean desk policy provides guidance for data sanitization of the work environment to protect against unauthorized data disclosure should an unauthorized individual gain access. Answer D is incorrect because personal technology training provides strategies for dealing with personal technology and services within the organizational enterprise environment.

Pearson IT Certification Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Pearson IT Certification and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Pearson IT Certification products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.pearsonitcertification.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020