How Gamification Improves Cybersecurity Training

How Gamification Improves Cybersecurity Training

How gamification improves cybersecurity training

Cybersecurity is one of the most challenging types of training. Employee negligence has long been known as the biggest cybersecurity risk [1] for companies. Following cybersecurity protocols significantly lowers risk, but companies have a hard time convincing employees to remember and actually follow these practices. Proper training is key to getting employees on board for cybersecurity, but proper training in this area is difficult. People often get stuck in their everyday internet habits and don’t understand the problem when they use a less secure file transfer option or dive into corporate servers without a VPN. It is difficult to motivate employees to pay attention to protocol and integrate it into their daily work.

Can you imagine employees changing their work habits after watching a boring video and answering some quiz questions? Me neither. This is where the benefits of gamification come into play; this type of training is especially useful for changing the daily habits of people who use it.

Understanding gamification

Gamification is basically what it sounds like. It turns the user’s learning experience into a kind of game that motivates users to “play” with badges, levels, points, fun graphics and interactive games – and even compete against other users. One of the first major mainstream uses of gamification was through an app called Habitica [2], an open-source project that turns the tedious task of developing healthy habits into a full-fledged community-based RPG game with custom characters and fighting monsters. Founded in 2013, Habitica has attracted more than 4 million users who are achieving goals from drinking enough water every day to tracking the progress of their work projects.

Gamification has since taken off and has found a variety of uses, including in the eLearning environment. It can be as complex as Habitica or as simple as assigning “badges” to users when completing tasks.

While gamification may not be the best model for every type of training – there isn’t much to play on learning complex IP concepts, for example – there are many uses for gamification in the eLearning environment. Building habits is one of the most successful uses of gamification, so it’s perfectly suited for cybersecurity training.

Gamification can increase motivation

Increasing motivation can be about reformulating how a task is perceived, and gamification can do just that. Cybersecurity training is seen as a slog, but gamification can reshape it as a new challenge. For example, a score table can cause some playful competition between colleagues. A simulation game in which users have to avoid disaster by making the right choices can bring challenging fun into the working day. A game that users interact with on a daily basis and log their cybersecurity victories can provide a daily dose of cybersecurity-related dopamine.

As mentioned in this article about gamification and motivation at UX Planet [3], “People have an inherent tendency to look for novelties and challenges.”

The trick is that the gamification has to be carefully designed. As a study published in the journal Computers in human behavior [4] found, any old gamification isn’t necessarily effective, but gamification elements make tasks feel more meaningful – just the kind of effect companies look for in cybersecurity training.

Finding a training partner experienced in creative, effective gamification is the key to success in creating gamifying cybersecurity training.

Gamification increases knowledge retention

Knowledge retention is a specific issue for cybersecurity training. There are plenty of mundane tasks where users are likely to refer to a manual or ask questions if they don’t remember something. However, in cybersecurity, if users no longer remember which actions increase risk, they cannot stop. In addition, cybersecurity best practices seem particularly prone to employee forgetfulness. According to a 2016 survey, 40% of executives [5] do not fully understand their own company’s cybersecurity protocols. If even the executives don’t know, how can the rest of the employees avoid the risk of cybersecurity?

It just makes sense: more engaged students will remember more of their learning sessions. However, there is more to it.

Science shows that frequent feedback helps users to retain knowledge better. Harvard researchers found that frequent quizzes kept student focus and increased knowledge retention.

Gamification, as a rule, is filled with this kind of frequent feedback. When playing simulation games, things go wrong when users make the wrong choices. When using a leaderboard, users immediately see how their performance compares to that of others. By using badges, users quickly find out whether they have earned the next level or not. Users immediately learn when they have done something wrong and are given the opportunity to “play again” and get it right. This creates many opportunities for frequent feedback in a way that is fun rather than punishing.

In addition, several studies have shown [6] that gamification has a positive effect on the retention of knowledge in a learning environment. Because knowledge retention should be a focus of cybersecurity training, gamification is an excellent choice for a cybersecurity training program.

Gamification is measurable

The fact that gamification is fun doesn’t make it any less serious as a training tool. Given the nature of how gamification tracks user progress through points, scores, and leaderboards, gamification is very measurable. This makes it a great option for companies looking to closely monitor the progress and improvement of cybersecurity awareness among their employees.

A well-designed gamification program will have integrated effective reporting and analysis. Gamification can provide insightful data about student behavior and training engagement. By working with a gamification expert, you will understand how best to develop your program to capture insightful, meaningful data about learners.

Gamification is a natural fit for cybersecurity training

Cybersecurity training is an area that suffers from a lack of motivation and knowledge retention, despite being a key element in strategies to reduce business risk. Gamification addresses these issues directly, while still being a serious learning tool that can provide in-depth data on learners and be integrated as part of a larger training program.

Given the prevalence of cybersecurity risks, gamification is a worthwhile investment that will help maintain the integrity of your company’s computer systems. That’s a ROI that’s hard to ignore.


[1] The biggest cybersecurity risk to U.S. companies is employee negligence, according to research

[2] Motivate yourself to achieve your goals.

[3] Gamification: motivation model

[4] How gamification motivates: an experimental study of the effects of specific game design elements on psychological need satisfaction

[5] Cyber ​​security is the job of every manager

[6] Can gamification help improve education? Findings from a longitudinal study

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