Fortinet 2023 report on cybersecurity awareness training for employees suggests that 81% of organizations faced malware, phishing, and password attacks in the previous year, indicating a significant vulnerability in current business cybersecurity strategies.

In today’s interconnected world, cyber threats are constantly evolving. Security awareness training for employees to identify and respond to potential security risks is an organization’s first line of defense. That human element enables employees to serve as “human firewalls,” if you will.  

Businesses today must prioritize cybersecurity awareness training for employees. This exercise is not just a formality; it’s a critical defense mechanism against sophisticated cyber-attacks and data breaches. By actively educating employees, companies can:

  • make themselves more challenging targets,
  • significantly reduce the likelihood of security incidents, and
  • protect their digital assets in a world where cyber risks are an everyday reality.

Yet, for many businesses, there’s a significant obstacle when establishing a strong security awareness program: they don’t have enough money in the budget. According to the SANS 2023 security awareness report, 75% of businesses reported having a limited budget for security awareness training. This is particularly true for small businesses, which may feel stuck in their efforts to improve security awareness.

Fortunately, there are free cybersecurity course options out there. This article highlights the 10 free cyber security awareness training opportunities and resources for employees of varying levels of cyber awareness and knowledge. These varied resources are great for small and medium businesses that need to be careful with their spending.

Free Cyber Security Training Options for Employees

According to the aforementioned Fortinet report, 56% of leaders feel their teams are in the dark about cybersecurity best practices, even with training programs within arm’s reach. This gap underscores a crucial miss — having access to training doesn’t mean your employees know how to put it into action in their day-to-day jobs.

Options abound when it comes to free cyber security awareness training for employees. The same can be said about free cybersecurity courses for more advanced users. However, decision-making should be informed and deliberate when selecting the right program for you and your staff.

While this article lists some of the best free cyber security training for employees, the real game-changer for businesses is an in-depth internal security check-up. Spot the unique cyber threats and weak spots that could throw your operations off balance. Custom-fit your training to meet these challenges head-on, and you’re not just training your team — you’re arming them with the knowledge and resources they need.

Security Companies and Institutions That Offer Free Training Resources

This list of courses, which is organized according to technical knowledge and skill levels, includes free cybersecurity and awareness training resources from the following industry leaders:

  • Microsoft LearnMicrosoft Learn is a library of training and technical resources for Microsoft-related products. It provides a range of learning materials, including courses on cybersecurity that span from basic concepts to advanced security management practices. These resources are designed to accommodate individuals at varying levels of expertise and learning needs — everyone from end users to IT professionals and developers.
  • Cisco Networking AcademyCisco Networking Academy provides a variety of cybersecurity courses catering to budding professionals and those seeking to hone their skills in network defense, threat monitoring, and intrusion prevention. The curriculum ranges from fundamental principles in the cybersecurity essentials course to specialized knowledge in cyber operations and network security and IoT fundamentals courses.
  • Amazon Learn SecurityAmazon Learn Security aims to educate individuals and organizations about the most common cyber threats and how to protect against them. This initiative is part of Amazon’s broader effort to promote safety in the digital world by combining educational rigor with practical safety measures.
  • EC-Council Cybersecurity ExchangeEC-Council Cybersecurity Exchange provides training and certification courses in cybersecurity, including enterprise-level training emphasizing practical methods. Training includes content development, hands-on skill development in labs, and proctored exams for certification.
  • Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE) — The Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE) platform encompasses a series of introductory courses aimed at providing a foundational understanding of cybersecurity principles. These courses cover a broad spectrum of topics, from essential cybersecurity concepts to more specialized subjects like cloud computing security and cyber risk management. 

Now that we know what organizations are offering free training, it’s time to explore the training options themselves, starting with the most basic.

Free Beginner Cyber Security Awareness Training For Employees

Learning about cybersecurity may seem daunting, hence why many free online courses are designed for beginners. These educational opportunities cover the basics, including topics like password security, identifying phishing emails, and navigating the internet safely. Completing these courses marks a significant first step for anyone looking to understand the fundamental aspects of staying secure online.

1. Introduction to Cybersecurity (Microsoft)

This beginner-level learning path consists of six modules that are suitable for beginners, business owners, professionals, and those familiar with Azure or Microsoft 365. It covers fundamental cybersecurity concepts and ways to protect against cyber attacks. The modules cover topics such as:

  • Basic and advanced cybersecurity threats (including application-, network- and device-based threats),
  • Cryptography, and
  • Authentication and authorization.
A screenshot of the course screen for Microsoft Learn's basic cyber security awareness training for employees
Image caption: Microsoft Learn: Understanding the fundamentals of cybersecurity. Image source: Learn Microsoft.

2. Introduction to Cybersecurity (Cisco)

Cisco’s Introduction to Cybersecurity is a course for anyone looking to understand the basics of cyber threats and how to stay safe online. It’s perfect for professionals who want to update their security knowledge or protect their company’s digital data.

The course breaks down complex topics into engaging, actionable lessons — no prior knowledge is needed.

Free cyber security training for employees graphic: This basic training course from Cisco Networking Academy provides cyber awareness education
Image caption: The basics of online safety and threat prevention with Cisco’s introductory course. Image source: Cisco Networking Academy.

The course offers 15 hours of content, and it fits anyone’s schedule with both live instruction and self-paced options. However, it’s important to note that only the online self-paced course is free; the instructor-led training option does have a cost associated with it.

The program wraps up with interactive exercises and a final exam to ensure you have the skills down. Completing the course gets you a digital badge to share your achievements.

3. Ethical Hacking Essentials (EC-Council)  

The Ethical Hacking Essentials course, offered by the EC-Council, is an introductory program to cybersecurity. It covers the fundamentals of ethical hacking and penetration testing, making it suitable for a broad range of learners, from high school and college students to professionals looking to enter the cybersecurity field.

The course offers over 15 hours of video-based training, official eCourseware, and a certificate of achievement. It explores various topics, including, 

  • Password cracking
  • Social engineering
  • Network- and application-level attacks
  • Web and mobile security
  • IoT and OT attacks
  • Cloud computing threats
EC Council's Ethical Hacking training screenshot
Video caption:  An EC-Council video on the ethical hacking profession. Video source: EC-Council’s YouTube channel.

This free online course is designed as a starting point for those interested in acquiring cybersecurity skills and pursuing further certifications in the field.

4. Cybersecurity Awareness Training (Amazon)

The course available on their Learn Security platform, is designed to help individuals and organizations protect against common cyber threats. This free cybersecurity awareness training also covers secure communication management, phishing, and data privacy, among other topics. 

Free cyber security training for employees graphic: A screenshot from Amazon's free cyber security awareness training for employees
Image caption: A peep into Amazon Cybersecurity Awareness Training, Image source: Amazon’s Cybersecurity Awareness Training.

The course has been crafted to be engaging and concise, aligning with global compliance frameworks. The courses are globally available in multiple languages and accessible in different formats to accommodate various learning management systems.

5. Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE)

The Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE) platform offers a selection of courses tailored to enhance cybersecurity knowledge. Designed for flexible learning, the classes accommodate individuals with varying levels of prior knowledge, making them suitable for both newcomers to cybersecurity and professionals seeking to refresh their basic knowledge.

The courses are meticulously planned to tackle specific aspects of cybersecurity:

The courses combine theory and practice to provide a solid cybersecurity foundation. The content is self-paced and structured for easy assimilation, ensuring learners can balance other commitments while preparing for cutting-edge topics in the cybersecurity field.

Free Cyber Security Awareness Training Educational Videos

Here are some other fun and engaging videos you can watch for free online and share with your colleagues to increase your organization’s overarching cyber awareness.

CompTIA’s YouTube channel offers a set of videos to train employees to identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks:

Check out StaySafeOnline’s YouTube Channel, which has a series of eight humorous and informative videos on cybersecurity awareness for employees:

Looking for information on current cybersecurity threats and prevention techniques to reduce the risk of cyber attacks? Be sure to check out this video on Burgi Technologies’ YouTube channel:

Free Intermediate-Level Cyber Security Courses and Training

For those who have a handle on the basics and are ready to delve deeper, there are intermediate courses available online at no cost. These courses expand on foundational knowledge, introducing more complex topics such as

  • Network security,
  • Data encryption, and the
  • Principles of defending against cyber threats.

They’re suitable for individuals seeking to broaden their cybersecurity understanding and apply it more effectively.

6. MS-101: Manage Your Security Services in Microsoft 365 Defender (Microsoft)

Aimed at intermediate learners, MS-101 learning path includes four modules tailored for administrators, security engineers, solution architects, and technology managers. It focuses on managing Microsoft 365 security services, emphasizing security reporting and features like Safe Attachments and Safe Links in Microsoft Defender for Office 365. Prerequisites include a proficient understanding of DNS and general IT practices. 

A screneshot of one of Microsoft's free cybersecurity courses for employees
Image caption: MS-101: Manage your security services in Microsoft 365 Defender. Image source: Learn Microsoft.

7. Cybersecurity Essentials (Cisco)

Cisco’s Cybersecurity Essentials course offers an in-depth exploration of cyber defense, designed for learners looking to strengthen their intermediate-level knowledge. This free course packs 30 hours of instruction on essential security practices for networks and servers and how to craft policies that keep data safe and accessible.

A screenshot of the introduction screen for Cisco Networking Academy's free cyber security training for employees
Image caption: The network defense skills with Cisco’s essentials course. Image source: Cisco Networking Academy.

This course offers the essential groundwork to advance networking practices and cybersecurity operations. Completers receive a certificate or digital badge and get access to a community forum for ongoing support, networking, and knowledge exchange. 

8. Network Defense Essentials (EC-Council)

The EC-Council’s Network Defense Essentials course is a comprehensive guide to information security and network defense. It’s perfect for high school and college students, as well as professionals who want an advanced career in cybersecurity. This free online course offers more than 14 hours of video training, official eCourseware, and a certificate of completion.

The topics covered in the EC-Council’s Network Defense Essentials course include:

  • Network security fundamentals
  • Digital identity, authentication, and authorization
  • Virtualization and cloud computing
  • Wireless network security
  • Mobile and IoT device security
  • Data security and public key cryptography

It provides hands-on experience and establishes a solid foundation for further cybersecurity education and certifications.

9. Digital Forensics Essentials (EC-Council)

The Digital Forensics Essentials course offered by EC-Council is an introductory program that covers digital forensics and cybersecurity concepts. This online course is suitable for both students and professionals, and provides over 11 hours of video training, eCourseware, and a certificate of completion.

The topics covered in this course include the following:

  • Computer and network forensics fundamentals and investigative processes
  • Disk drives and operating systems
  • Data acquisition
  • Forensics of specific operating systems (Windows, Linux, and Mac)
  • Malware forensics
  • Dark web and The Onion Router (TOR) browser forensics

The course offers practical lab experience and serves as a stepping-stone for those who are interested in pursuing advanced cybersecurity certifications.

Free Advanced-Level Cyber Security Courses and Training for Employees

The advanced segment includes a specific program tailored for IT professionals focused on the strategic aspects of cybersecurity. Offered by Microsoft, this course dives into essential topics like managing security risks, drafting effective security policies, and developing incident response plans.

This training aims to provide a deeper understanding of the leadership roles in cybersecurity, making it a suitable choice for those looking to deepen their expertise in the field.

10.  The CISO Workshop (Microsoft)

Microsoft’s commitment to cybersecurity readiness is exemplified by its Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Workshop, a resource designed for security professionals seeking to modernize their organization’s cybersecurity strategy.

There are actually two CISO Workshops — one that’s new(er) and one that’s archived.

  • While Microsoft Learn doesn’t categorically state whether the latest workshop is free, the wealth of materials available — videos, PDFs, PowerPoint summaries — implies no associated cost, allowing for comprehensive learning without financial constraints.
  • For those interested in exploring these advanced concepts, the archived “The CISO Workshop” materials are available for free, offering a separate set of resources from the current “The CISO Workshop” provided by Microsoft Learn.

Peek into the archived CISO Workshop Module 1 for an overview of critical security hygiene, Microsoft cybersecurity reference architecture, and more:

A screenshot from Microsoft's archived Module 1 training vide from its archived The CISO Workshop training
Image caption: A screenshot from Microsoft’s module 1 video from the company’s archived The CISO Workshop.

Final Thoughts on Free Cyber Security Training for Employees

For decision-makers, integrating free cybersecurity training into your organization is an efficient and budget-friendly way to enhance security. It’s about empowering your team with the knowledge to tackle cyber threats effectively. These free resources, which cover a range of cybersecurity topics, provide vital training without the cost.

The goal is to build a security-aware workforce, making cybersecurity a part of your company’s DNA. This approach protects your digital environment and promotes a culture of vigilance and responsibility, which is crucial in the digital age.

Finally, for companies with limited funds, leveraging free cybersecurity training is a smart and economical strategy to strengthen defenses and instill the principles of cyber awareness among employees. This investment is strategic, ensuring businesses stay resilient against evolving cyber threats.


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