Career Paper – The Role of Social Science in Security Awareness and Training

Introduction to Security Awareness and Training Specialists
In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, security awareness and training (SAT) specialists play a pivotal role in safeguarding individuals and organizations from cyberattacks.  Their expertise lies in educating and empowering individuals to protect themselves from cyber threats, a task which requires a deep understanding of human behavior and social dynamics.  Social science research and principles provide valuable insights into these critical aspects, enabling SAT specialists to effectively design, implement, and evaluate training programs that foster a cybersecurity-conscious culture.

Description of a Security Awareness and Training Specialist’s Role
Security awareness training can be defined as IT professionals’ approach to educating individuals “on the importance of cybersecurity and data privacy” (Yasar & Pratt, 2023).  This career can be referred to as a variety of job titles, such as security awareness officer/specialist or even a security awareness manager; however, this paper will broadly refer to the role of an SAT specialist.  Although a job candidate’s qualifications will typically satisfy any of these, there is a distinction between security awareness and security training.  Security awareness focuses on developing a security mindset among employees, while security training focuses on developing specialized skills to recognize and mitigate security threats.  SAT specialists are tasked with developing training programs that effectively communicate various cybersecurity threats and ways to identify and resolve them.  There are a variety of components that could be integrated into the material.  These could include educational content, follow-up and ongoing messaging, simulated attack testing, worker involvement reporting and measurement, and compliance-specific requirements (Yasar & Pratt, 2023).

Understanding Human Behavior and Cognitive Theories
For one of the key concepts learned in class, it is essential to recognize that cybersecurity is increasingly being identified as a people-focused practice rather than strictly focusing on technology.  Therefore, this role specializes in a relatively new area of knowledge, but it was developed to address the cause of many cyber-related incidents: people.  This means that the likelihood of an attack occurring is increased “by users that are unaware about cybersecurity” (Alamanda, 2023).  One of the objectives of an SAT specialist is to create a secure culture within an organization.  This is “to reduce human risk,” primarily through continuous training that occurs regularly (Alamanda, 2023).

Another concept in social science that is particularly relevant to SAT work is the understanding of cognitive theories.  These focus on the way individuals think and process information.  They can be applied to understand both cyber offenders, as well as people who are trying to defend themselves from cyber threats.  For example, the neutralization theory suggests that offenders know right from wrong, and they rationalize their behavior before committing their unlawful actions.  For people who are trying to defend themselves, there are cognitive biases that can lead to errors in judgment.  This is because cognitive bias is a thought process that results from the human brain’s tendency to attempt to “prioritize and process large amounts of information quickly” (Gillis & Bernstein, 2023).  Furthermore, there is also a thought process known as optimism bias.  An SAT specialist can refer to this in their teachings by informing individuals that people are often “more optimistic than what reality presents” (Usiagwu, 2020).

Effective Communication and Learning Strategies
Another way to apply one of the key concepts from class is to recognize how social science research guides effective communication and learning strategies, essential for designing engaging and impactful training programs.  SAT specialists need to communicate complex cybersecurity concepts clearly and concisely, tailored to the audience’s level of understanding.  They also need to develop engaging and interactive training, using various learning techniques to cater to different learning styles.  Their learning materials should avoid jargon and technical terms that may alienate non-technical audiences.  Additionally, real-world examples, storytelling, and analogies can help make cybersecurity concepts more relatable and engaging.  For example, an SAT specialist can educate individuals by using the social proof principle, which could be used to improve cybersecurity habits “by highlighting the right that others are doing” (Usiagwu, 2020).

Addressing Cultural Sensitivity and Inclusion
Our class also highlighted the importance of how cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities can vary across different cultures and demographics.  SAT specialists need to be culturally sensitive and inclusive in their approach to training, ensuring that the content is relevant and accessible to all audiences.  This means that one should consider the target audience’s cultural norms, values, and preferences.  They should also avoid using offensive or insensitive language or imagery of specific cultures.

Measuring the Impact of Training
Social science research provides methods for evaluating the effectiveness of cybersecurity awareness training.  This relates to a section in Module 14 in class, which discussed trends in cybercrime studies.  SAT specialists need to be able to measure the impact of their training programs on individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.  This information can then refine and improve training programs over time.  Practical evaluation of cybersecurity awareness training involves measuring changes in individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors before and after the training.  This can be done through pre-and post-training assessments, surveys, and observation of behavior change.  The collected data can then be analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the training program and identify areas for improvement.

Impacts of SAT Specialists on Society
There are a few ways to demonstrate the dynamic interactions between society and the SAT specialist career.  This consists of highlighting the ways that SAT specialists directly positively impact society.  For example, their work improves individual behavior by empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their online activities and reducing their susceptibility to cyberattacks.  Their work also improves organizations by promoting a cybersecurity-conscious culture within them.  On a larger scale, the work of an SAT specialist contributes to a more secure national cybersecurity posture by reducing the overall surface of cyberattacks.  Furthermore, it is also worth it because society shapes their work by setting expectations for specialists and providing them with new challenges and feedback.

Contributions to Marginalized Groups
The work performed by SAT specialists benefits all individuals who work in an environment with training opportunities available.  One example of a resource SAT specialists use to educate individuals is the CISA Cybersecurity Awareness Program.  This program is offered by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, founded by the U.S. government in 2018.  It provides a variety of resources that can be used to develop and implement effective cybersecurity awareness training programs.  The main advantage of this program is that it provides a consistent and standardized approach to cybersecurity awareness training, ensuring that all employees receive the same level of education.

Furthermore, it also addresses some of the challenges that specific individuals face.  For example, for Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October, the CISA created a post about raising awareness about cybersecurity among “public and private sectors, and tribal communities” (CISA, n.d.).  It is worth noting that tribal communities often face marginalization in various aspects of society, which can make them more vulnerable to cyberattacks.  This could be due to needing more access to cybersecurity resources, lower levels of digital literacy, or language barriers.  However, the goal of an SAT specialist is to improve and maintain the online safety of all individuals within their workplace.

Social science research and principles are valuable components in the security awareness and training (SAT) specialist role.  By understanding human behavior, communication, and learning, SAT specialists can design and deliver training programs that empower individuals to protect themselves from cyberattacks, contributing to a more secure digital society.  As cyber threats continue to evolve, the importance of social science in SAT work will only grow, ensuring that training programs remain practical and relevant in addressing the ever-changing human dimension of cybersecurity.


Alamanda, V. (2023, February 24). Security Awareness Officer Important Role in
Cybersecurity. Paireds.

CISA Cybersecurity Awareness Program: CISA. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure
Security Agency. (n.d.).

Gillis, A. S., & Bernstein, C. (2023, April 27). What is Cognitive Bias?. TechTarget:
Enterprise AI.

Usiagwu, M. (2020, January 27). The Risk of Increase in Social Cyber Security in 2020.
Infosecurity Magazine.

Yasar, K., & Pratt, M. K. (2023, October 12). What is Security Awareness
Training?: Definition from TechTarget. Security.

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