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Approaches and Challenges of Federal Cybersecurity Awareness Programs



Julie Haney, Jody Jacobs, Susanne M. Furman


Organizational security awareness programs may experience a number of challenges, including lack of resources, difficulty measuring the impact of the program, and perceptions among the workforce that training is a boring, "check-the-box" activity. While prior surveys and research have examined programs in the private sector, there is little understanding of whether these findings also apply within the U.S. government. To address this gap and better understand the needs, challenges, practices, and necessary competencies of federal security awareness teams and programs, NIST conducted a comprehensive, two-phase research study that leveraged both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. This companion document to NISTIR XXXX "Federal Cybersecurity Awareness Programs: A Mixed Methods Research Study" reports on a subset of study results focused on identifying the current approaches and challenges of security awareness programs within the federal government. Insights gained from these results are informing guidance and other initiatives to aid federal organizations in building effective security awareness programs. While focused on the U.S. government, findings may also have implications for organizational security awareness programs in other sectors.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 8420A
Report Number


cybersecurity, cybersecurity awareness, focus groups, measures of effectiveness, mixed methods, phishing, security professionals, survey, training, usable cybersecurity


Haney, J. , Jacobs, J. and Furman, S. (2022), Approaches and Challenges of Federal Cybersecurity Awareness Programs, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed June 19, 2024)


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Created March 25, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022