When it comes to security software, the hype doesn’t always match the outcomes. It’s not surprising: Manufacturers need consumers to believe their products offer the ultimate network protection. And, in fairness, there are numerous amazing solutions out there, many providing a level of defense that far outstrips anything we’ve ever seen.

But what often gets lost amidst the marketing and sales pitches is this: There is no end all, be all. A firewall alone will never be enough. Antivirus alone will never be enough. Security analytics alone will never be enough.

Realistically, no single measure can hold the gate against every possible threat. A successful security strategy can never hinge on a single solution. Failing to recognize this often induces a false sense of security for end-users who wind up relying too deeply on individual security technologies and not deeply enough on risk prevention and detection. So how can organizations overturn this knowledge gap?

Create Cynics

Imagine a customer lured by a VPN service. Sure, this solution helps when they’re connected to public Wi-Fi and someone tries to steal their data by setting up rogue access points. Not so, however, with a malware attack. Sold on one piece of software as a silver bullet for security, those users likely become easy targets down the line.

Yearly or even quarterly trainings and refreshers can teach users to spot potential threats. What’s more, they’ll better understand not only the benefits of security software, but also its limitations.

User Awareness

Safe and defensive practices are second nature for some users. But others lack the training and instincts to recognize threats as they appear.

Teaching users to identify phishing scams, website redirects and invalid certificates can increase ten-fold the effectiveness of security measures. After all, even the most powerful security solutions are rendered useless if users invite viruses on their own accord. User awareness is your first and best line of defense.

Enforce Update Protocols

The architects behind most attacks know all of the common protection mechanisms and subvert them by design, targeting the human factor instead. A range of vulnerabilities appear when users fail to update their systems and instead retain old or unpatched versions. User awareness of basic maintenance goes a long way when protecting endpoints against potential threats.

You can even take it a step farther and mandate that users perform essential upgrades. By requiring critical systems updates, network administrators ensure that end users update their software or else risk being unable to use it.

Security as a Culture

In the end, awareness is largely cultural and has to be cultivated. Users should expect trainings and discussions about the latest trends in cyberattacks and how to stay ahead of them. Meanwhile, IT should constantly send updates to users about new schemes and attacks, making sure to keep security top-of-mind. In turn, users learn to be watchful and not to throw all their faith into a single solution.

Once you’ve incorporated strong user-awareness campaigns into your company culture, be sure to validate them by going through scenarios and gathering outcomes data. This helps you prove your program’s merit with hard metrics, or to adjust the program when it falls short.

A good security system should protect from multiple angles through up-to-date and comprehensive technologies. Next-generation protection goes beyond signatures and looks at memory and processes to map activity change and proactively prevent viruses before they become a problem. With solid solutions in place, a virus or piece of malware has to navigate a complex series of obstacles before getting anywhere near your network. But without user awareness, none of the above will ever be enough.

Pete Burke is a security and borderless networks technical consultant at Force 3.