Most companies assign their own Tech Support department to train company employees in matters of IT security, rather than hiring outside IT consultants or commissioning IT security professionals.

This is according to experts at B2B International, which recently collaborated with Kaspersky Lab to conduct the Global Corporate IT Security Risks 2013 survey among companies around the world, including South Africa.

Effective IT security training for employees is a key component of any strategy to combat cyber threats – according to the survey, four out of five of the most common internal security incidents recorded in the past 12 months were directly linked to staff actions.

The figures for South Africa show that:
* 24% of respondents reported accidental leakages of confidential data;
* 36% of respondents reported employees losing corporate mobile devices with critical data stored on them;
* 14% of companies encountered intentional staff-facilitated data leakages; and
* 20% of companies had dealt with incidents when confidential data got into the wrong hands due to the improper use of mobile devices (via a mobile e-mail client, text messages and so on).

Time and again, research shows that unintentional staff errors are behind a significant proportion of critical data leaks and IT security incidents. The key to addressing this challenge lies in ensuring that end users are adequately informed of IT security risks – and how best to avoid them.

While this clearly illustrates the importance of employee education in IT security, the question remains: who exactly should provide that training?

As B2B International determined, most companies believe that an organisation’s in-house IT department should train company employees in IT security matters – even though staff education is not one of the key functions of an IT department.

This additional workload affects performance: respondents noted that IT departments have other important tasks and typically do not have time to educate their co-workers.

Obviously, this can have a negative impact on the quality of training. A better outcome can be delivered by commissioning a third-party IT consultant with the requisite training expertise. However, only 11% of respondents in South Africa reported having done so.

The HR department is involved in employee training at 13% of the companies that took part in the survey. A similar number of companies delegate this matter to an Employee Training and Development department.
Roughly 3% of respondents reported that they commission an outside corporate training provider.
These figures are more or less the same across regions, with some minor differences: for example, the highest percentage of companies assigning IT security training to their in-house IT departments are located in the Middle East (73%), Japan (72%), and North America (71%); while organisations in South America (65%), South Africa (61%) and Eastern Europe (57%) do so less often.

External IT consultants are most often hired to train company employees in South Africa (11%) and Asia-Pacific, similar to Eastern Europe and the Middle East (both 11%).

In general, the importance of employee education in IT security is acknowledged by the overwhelming majority of companies — only 3% of survey respondents in South Africa stated that their companies do not train their staff in IT security at all.

However, the quality of corporate education is open to question – after all, employee awareness about cyber threats has a direct impact on the extent to which a company’s IT security policies are followed and, as a result, on the overall degree to which a company is protected against cyber threats.

Presently, in South Africa approximately 60% of survey participants indicated that company employees do not always respect or diligently adhere to corporate IT security rules. This is relatively high compared to the global statistic which is 39%.