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Federal Cybersecurity Awareness Programs A Mixed Methods Research Study



Julie Haney, Jody Jacobs, Susanne M. Furman


Prior industry surveys and research studies have revealed that organizational security awareness programs may face a number of challenges, including lack of: leadership support; resources; and staff with sufficient background and skills to implement an effective and engaging program. However, no prior research has explored security awareness programs specifically in the United States (U.S.) government (federal) sector. To address this gap, NIST conducted a two-phase, mixed methods research study to understand the needs, challenges, and practices of federal security awareness programs. This report describes the research background and methodology, along with the characteristics of the participants, organizations, and programs represented in the study. Research results can serve as a resource for federal security awareness professionals, managers, and organizational decision makers to improve and advocate for their organizations' security awareness programs. Results can also inform the development of federal security awareness guidance, policies, sharing forums, and initiatives meant to aid programs in becoming more effective. 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) - 8420
Report Number


cybersecurity, cybersecurity awareness, focus groups, mixed methods, security professionals, survey, training, usable cybersecurity


Haney, J. , Jacobs, J. and Furman, S. (2022), Federal Cybersecurity Awareness Programs A Mixed Methods Research Study, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed April 14, 2024)
Created March 25, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022