Virgin Active Italia

Customer Success Stories/News/Security Awareness
12 September 2023

The world of sport and cyber security: the marriage you wouldn’t expect

Virgin Active Italia chooses Cyber Guru and speaks about the benefits of its training experience

Universes that appear to have nothing to do with one another and that instead blend perfectly, creating growth and benefits for people and for the company.
Let’s talk about cybersecurity and the world of sport. Not just any world, but that of Virgin Active Italia, one of the most renowned brands that has chosen Cyber Guru for its course in Cyber Security Awareness.

Virgin Active is an international leader in fitness and wellness with over one million members and 250 clubs worldwide. In Italy, it has 1,100 employees and 40 clubs, of which only 14 are located in the Milan area, and the others are spread throughout the country, from north to south.

Given the scale of the structure and the number of people revolving around it, the issue of cybersecurity has become increasingly vital. For this reason, the company has decided to face it head-on by choosing an effective and advantageous solution.

Here to describe the course chosen and the implications of this choice is Antonio Balsamo, IT Security manager of Virgin Active Italia – “Safety management nowadays cannot be underestimated. If, until not so long ago, this expense was considered a necessary evil, a bit like insurance, which affected companies’ budgets, today, it is clear that investment in security leads to a definite economic return. Those who do not invest in it, in addition to putting themselves in a condition of high risk, remain behind the other competitors”.

The importance of the human factor

The starting point for a company with many employees like Virgin Active Italia was undoubtedly the human factor.

“In the context of security awareness” – says Antonio Balsamo – “it is often said that the human factor is the weak link in the chain. We are convinced that it is instead a resource, as it is the first level of response that criminals encounter. If properly governed, it becomes the most solid obstacle hackers run up against. Our company must also consider a global level of exposure, with Virgin and Virgin Active brands present all over the world with different local businesses.

Precisely for this reason, we have chosen to consolidate our practice with a layered approach, to reduce the possibility of breaches as much as possible. With this in mind, Cyber Guru, together with the partner Project Informatica, was undoubtedly the most appropriate choice precisely because through a streamlined and user-friendly training course, it achieves the goal of strengthening everyone’s digital posture, even that of people who have little interest in technology and would prefer to think about any other topic. The old-fashioned approach, that of classroom-style, long and boring lessons, is no longer possible and has never been effective. It’s too demanding and frustrating, especially because it is not aligned with our user base, which is on average young and used to a more streamlined and informal tone of voice”.

Effective training for everyone

According to Balsamo, the training proposed by Cyber Guru, on the other hand – “enables us, precisely because of how it is structured, to motivate, create interest, involve, and even entertain, those who take the training. Its structure, which is divided into many small modules of 20 minutes per month, allows everyone to combine safety knowledge with work activities and everyday life.
In addition, being spread across all months of the year allows learners to always stay in touch with these issues that, in order to be properly taken on board, require a ‘homeopathic’ approach: i.e., they must be taken in small doses, but on a continuous basis”.

Gamification for active involvement

Another added value was, according to the Virgin Active manager, the use of gamification as an element of involvement of all staff – “A very innovative tool compared to traditional training. To make the most of it, we organised an administrative staff championship that rewards the top performers and a championship among all 40 Italian clubs. We also decided to divide it into quarters with intermediate awards, and then, at the end of the course, we have the final award ceremony of the three best individual performers and the 3 best teams.

However, apart from the final prize, the real motivation is the competition itself and the fact of being known throughout the company as the best student or throughout Italy as the most well-prepared club. These are very motivating elements that ensure that the training course is followed and taken on board by everyone”.

Effective training can be seen from the results

By analysing the feedback obtained from the chosen training course, Balsamo underlines the great measurable participation in the use of the training platform and the increased ability of everyone to recognise threats and respond appropriately.

Balsamo refers in particular to phishing, for which Cyber Guru uses very effective simulation campaigns that are calibrated, through an artificial intelligence system, on individual skills and knowledge in recognising an attack. “It’s a way” – says the manager – “to respect everyone’s time and to leave no one behind. Different people work in the company and therefore have different approaches to the digital world. There are many young people who use mobile phones every day for a range of activities, but also many fathers and mothers who have teenage children.”

“The information we cover” – continues Balsamo – “is useful to protect both work-related and private activity. The goal is to make all our employees and collaborators aware of the fact that being connected today represents a risk in itself and to offer them all the necessary tools to better manage this risk.”

“For Virgin Active” – concludes Balsamo – “it was a real cultural investment, which for us is a great source of pride. We have strengthened the digital posture of all employees, from top management to staff, and offered them an extra gear to move through today’s world, where there is no time in which we are not connected. It is an approach that has greatly consolidated among all of us the sense of team spirit and the feeling of belonging to a company that cares and takes care of people’s safety, not only in the workplace, but also in their private lives”.

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