The Need for Simulation and Situational Awareness in Cybersecurity Training – A Neuroscience Perspective

Organizations are more vulnerable than ever to cybersecurity threats. Global annual cybersecurity costs are predicted to grow from $3 trillion in 2015 to $6 trillion annually by 2021. To stay safe organizations must train their employees to identify cybersecurity threats and to avoid them. To address this, global spending on cybersecurity products and services is projected to exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021.

Unfortunately, cybersecurity training is particularly challenging because cybersecurity is more about training behavioral “intuition” and situational awareness than it is about training a cognitive, analytic understanding. It is one thing to know “what” to do, but it is another (and mediated by completely different systems in the brain) to know “how” to do it, and to know how to do it under a broad range of situations.

Regrettably, knowing what to do and what not to do, does not translate into actually doing or not doing. To train cybersecurity behaviors, the learner must be challenged through behavioral simulation. They must be presented with a situation, generate an appropriate or inappropriate response, and must receive real-time, immediate feedback regarding the correctness of their behavior. Real-time, interactive feedback is the only way to effectively engage the behavioral learning system in the brain. This system learns through gradual, incremental dopamine-mediated changes in the strength of muscle memory that reside in the striatum of the brain. Critically, the behavioral learning system in the brain is distinct from the cognitive learning system in the brain, meaning that knowing “what” to do has no effect on learning “how” to do it.

Cybersecurity behavioral training must be broad-based with the goal of training situational awareness. Cybersecurity hackers are creative with each attack often having a different look and feel. Simulations must mimic this variability so that they elicit different experiences and emotions. This is how you engage experiential centers in the brain that represent the sensory aspects of an interaction (e.g., sight and sound) and emotional centers in the brain that build situational awareness. By utilizing a broad range of cybersecurity simulations that engage experiential and emotional centers in different ways, the learner trains cybersecurity behaviors that generalize and transfer to multiple settings. Ideally, it is also useful to align the difficulty of the simulation to the user’s performance. This personalized approach will be more effective and will speed learning relative to a one-size-fits-all approach.

If your organization is worried about cybersecurity threats and is looking for a cybersecurity training tool, a few considerations are in order. First, and foremost, do not settle for a training solution that focuses only on providing learners with knowledge and information around cybersecurity. This “what” focused approach will be ineffective at teaching the appropriate behavioral responses to cybersecurity threats, and will leave your organization vulnerable. Instead focus on solutions that are grounded in simulation training, preferably with content and delivery that is broad-based to train situational awareness. Solutions that personalize the difficulty of each simulation are a bonus as they will speed learning and long-term retention of cybersecurity behaviors.

Understanding the Brain Science on How the US Government Shutdown Reduces the Effectiveness of Diligent Decision-Making

  On December 22, 2018, the longest government shutdown in American history began. Approximately 800,000 employees have been affected with roughly 380,000 workers being furloughed and another 420,000 working without pay. Many of the 420,000 employees being required to work without pay make important, and often split-second, life or death decisions. This includes the Coast…

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Todd Maddox Ph.D.’s Top Four Scientific Observations on DevLearn 2018

If you have a passion for learning then DevLearn is for you. DevLearn 2018 was quite the event. With excellent keynote addresses, breakout sessions, numerous vendors and great demos it was action-packed. I enjoyed every minute of DevLearn 2018 and I am already looking forward to 2019.

I took a few days to gather my notes and thoughts, and I have a number of observations on DevLearn 2018. I am sure that others who attended DevLearn 2018 will highlight different topics, and acknowledging that I was only able to speak in detail with a dozen or so vendors, here are my Top Four Scientific Observations.

Whether Talent, Behavioral or Data……The Impact of Science Continues to Grow

Relevant Vendors That I Spoke With: Adobe, Allego, EdCast, Inkling, iSpring, Learning Tribes, LEO Learning, MPS Interactive, Mursion, OttoLearn, Rehearsal, Schoox, STRIVR, Valamis

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Qstream Leverages Science to Train Situational Awareness in the Sales Brain

Consider a sales managers all-too-common nightmare…

“I wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat worried about my sales teams’ ability to “think on their feet” and to “read” the ever-changing sales landscape. They know the product in and out. I know I quiz them frequently. During role play they also perform well. However, to a person, when faced with an objection, time pressure, or a resistant client, they choke. It is as if they have forgotten everything that they know. I am at a loss for what to do.”

This is a problem in “situational awareness” and it is common in sales, and many other domains (e.g., healthcare). A sales professional with strong situational awareness has an almost intuitive feel for the current situation and has a very good idea of what is coming next. This individual always remains calm and can retrieve critical product information whether in a routine or non-routine situation (e.g., under time pressure). This individual knows how to act in any situation. They always put their best foot forward, and maximize the chances of a sale, regardless of the situation.

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The Learning Science of Situational Awareness and Patient Safety

An Interactive Webinar with Qstream CEO, Rich Lanchantin On Wednesday, July 17, 2018, Amalgam’s Learning Scientist and Research Fellow, Todd Maddox, Ph.D. and Qstream’s CEO, Rich Lanchantin conducted a live, interactive webinar focused on the critically important topic of situational awareness and patient safety. Achieving the highest quality in patient care requires a careful balance…

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Optimizing Sales Enablement and Sales Training by Leveraging Learning Science: A Brief Primer

Key Stakeholders: Chief Sales Officer, Sales Directors and Managers, Sales Operations Directors and Managers, Training Officers, Learning and Development Professionals

Top Takeaways: If you want an efficient sales team you need to provide them with the right tools and train them effectively. If you want sales enablement and training tools that are highly effective they need to be grounded in learning science – the marriage of psychology and brain science. Many sales teams and sales focused vendors have access to these tools. What is needed is an effective way to leverage these tools to maximum advantage. This is where learning science comes in. In this report, I briefly outline the learning science behind sales enablement, people skills training and situational awareness.

(Note: This report represents the first step in an ongoing research initiative focused on critically evaluating the effectiveness of sales enablement and sales training solutions on the market. My goal in this research is to critically evaluate and accurately reflect the current state of the sales enablement and sales training sector from the perspective of learning science.)

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