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Does Cybersecurity Gamification Live up to the Hype?

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The frequency and effectiveness of cyber attacks like phishing are increasing, resulting in dire consequences such as reputational damage, data, and financial loss. The prime cause of cyber attacks in an organization is human error. Some 95% of data breaches result from human mistakes, confirming the widely accepted idea that humans are the weakest link in cyber security. 

However, human vulnerabilities are avoidable, and they only become a true liability due to poor cybersecurity practices and inadequate cybersecurity training and awareness. Behavioral cybersecurity, therefore, works around the idea of imparting relevant training, knowledge, and awareness regarding cybersecurity while focusing specifically on improving end-user behavior. 

The modern approach to imparting this knowledge relies upon gamification. It is one such method that adds fun, engagement, competition and motivation to cybersecurity awareness training. It is a powerful and unique way to improve the standard of cyberlearning and encourages professionals to practice what they have learned in real time. 

How Gamification Improves Cybersecurity?

Essentially, the practice of gamification in cybersecurity has become a new trend in organizations because it maximizes positive learning outcomes in a fun and entertaining way. By blending micro-lessons, competition and entertainment, gamification increases enthusiasm and retention during security awareness training. 

One recent study found that 88% of people believe gamification makes them happier during training. In this sense, gamified learning is a real boom, as it changes the way of learning and positively impacts employees.

An organization faces several hurdles during a cybersecurity awareness training program, but gamification makes things easier. There are several ways in which gamification improves cybersecurity, and some of them are as follows.

Enabling Behavior Change

During traditional, lecture-based cybersecurity awareness and training programs, team members often think the content is not relevant to them. Though they complete the required material, they fail to integrate it into their professional lives due to a lack of practice and motivation. 

Gamification is the best solution to this problem. It leads to an easy grasp of the concepts that result in positive behavior change. Users become more involved with the subject when they interact with content that engages them and gets feedback through points, rewards, or appreciation. 

Enhancing Engagement and Motivation 

Traditionally, cybersecurity training occurred monthly and consisted of posters, banners, presentations, and long lectures. While these materials did convey relevant information, they were often uninspiring and failed to engage and motivate the users. Hence awareness and training are not enough to reinforce their skills and behavior. Incorporating personalization and gaming within training campaigns leads to better engagement. 

Users enjoy playing games, since they are interactive and keep people motivated. When participants are rewarded, they feel accomplished that they are taking the appropriate actions and continue to participate in learning and improving. 

Gamification Is Measurable

Adding gamification to cybersecurity training makes it a competitive and enjoyable team activity, but it doesn’t mean it is a less serious training tool. Because it takes place in a digital-first environment, gamification is measurable and tracks users’ progress through leaderboards, points, and scorecards. This makes it an excellent option for companies that want to track their employees’ performance and progress during cybersecurity training.

A well-designed and automated gaming program includes reporting and analytics. It provides insightful data about learner behavior and training engagement. 

Increasing Knowledge Retention

Knowledge retention is a significant issue in cybersecurity training. There are various routine tasks in which users have to confer some actions, for example, dealing with phishing emails. If they fail to remember the action by mistake, this increases the risk. Frequent feedback helps users retain knowledge better, which is possible by integrating gamification in cybersecurity awareness and training programs. 

Gamification provides frequent feedback to the users. When playing games, users can make wrong choices, but by seeing the leaderboards and badges, they can see their performance and whether they have earned it to the next level. In this way, gamification creates many opportunities to improve user behavior, resulting in a robust cybersecurity culture

What Are the Challenges of Implementing Gamification?

There are many ways gamification can be implemented in the organization’s cybersecurity training programs. But there are a few challenges that companies face while adding the gamification element to their training. These are as follows:

  • The most crucial pitfall of gamification is that many designers create games that do not fit all audiences. Other games are well designed but don’t match the goal of the organization’s training and hence don’t help the learner engage in the content. 
  • Sometimes gamification in cybersecurity training results in a wasted resource, because the games are way too complex for users to understand. Thus, designers must be told about the objectives and execution options to achieve the desired results. 
  • Various development tools available online allow anyone to create a game. While this is a good thing for the tech community, it is also an alarming situation for companies, as cyber attackers can develop a game to target employees, tricking them into making mistakes that cause breaches.
  • Integrating gamification elements in cybersecurity training also brings endless update challenges. Cyber training needs to be an agile process requiring constant updates to use customer behavior, patterns, and industry trends. his can not be achieved if users are playing outdated games.

How to Successfully Integrate Gamified Cybersecurity Training in Your Organization?

A report finds that 96% of participating employees show improved teamwork, increased awareness, response time, and self-efficiency when they practice gamified exercises in their organization.  

Designing a game that matches the intended audience is crucial for implementing gamification. Research what employees like the most, what keeps them engaged and motivated, and which devices they use. All this information helps to develop an initial security awareness game. The organization conducts cybersecurity awareness training using that developed game. Later, data is collected to evaluate the effectiveness of the game and the appropriateness of the game elements used.

The gamification of security training can manifest itself in different types of interactive experiences like board games, card games, computer games, and virtual reality games. For example, to prevent the increasing phishing attack, organizations can use a quiz game to test whether the employees can recognize fake emails and other phishing techniques. They can also use rewards and other incentives to motivate users. 

These cybersecurity awareness games should also be customizable and based on specific game genres like action, stimulation, or role-playing to meet the organization’s and users’ requirements. Customizing the games makes the content more relevant, relatable, and understandable to the player. It’s also possible to use third-party services that inject personalized, gamified micro-lessons into the course of a day’s work, which helps to keep people on their toes.

The main focus of gamification in security awareness training is to increase player motivation. Games alert them to their progress and make them think about their actions through continuous feedback, and this can be achieved by implementing various gaming elements.  By integrating gaming elements like badges, rewards, penalties, challenges, competition, leaderboards, and points into cybersecurity training campaigns, organizations can make the gamifying learning experience successful and prompt positive behavior among users. 

Besides this, organizations can also infuse AI and ML technologies into their game-based training programs. These advanced technologies update the gaming environment according to new problems and data and enhance the learning experience.

Final Thoughts

With the increasing cyber risks, cybersecurity training has become a fundamental need of an organization. But all too often, this area lacks motivation, engagement, and knowledge retention. Gamification addresses all these issues; it is a modern learning tool that helps employees to improve their learning about various cybersecurity aspects. 

Gamification can be integrated into regular cybersecurity awareness and training programs with the help of various games that are customizable and include game elements. All this helps to improve users’ behavior and avoid social engineering attacks like phishing. Gamifying cybersecurity awareness and training don’t necessarily make for overnight success. It is an ongoing process that requires time, so organizations must introduce various gaming aspects and tailor them to what fits best for their working environment. Ask employees for feedback to better understand where you lack and need improvement.

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Rebecca James is an IT consultant with forward thinking approach toward developing IT infrastructures of SMEs. She writes to engage with individuals and raise awareness of digital security, privacy, and better IT infrastructure.

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