Translating cybersecurity materials for multinational teams: raising awareness and protecting your business

Cybersecurity is a top priority for businesses of all sizes, but it’s especially important for multinational organisations with employees dotted around the world. This is because cyberattacks can happen anywhere, and they can be costly and disruptive, no matter where they occur.

One of the best ways to protect your multinational business from cyberattacks is to translate your cybersecurity documentation and training materials into the languages of the countries where you have employees. This will help ensure that all your employees are aware of the risks and know what to do to keep your business safe if they suspect a phishing, ransomware or other type of cyberattack.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about the importance of translating your cybersecurity documentation and training materials. We’ll then look at the approaches and strategies you can use to do this effectively.

Raising cybersecurity awareness through translation

If you’re reading this, you most likely work for a multinational company headquartered in a country whose official language is French, Spanish or some other European language. Your company has offices in various locations around the world. French, Spanish or whatever is also your company’s working language – the language used when communicating with colleagues and for company documentation. You therefore expect all your employees, wherever they’re located in the world, to be proficient to some level in your company’s working language. It also means that all your cybersecurity content – your security policies and procedures, online reporting tools, security alerts and notifications, and cybersecurity training – is all written in that language too.

This all makes perfect sense until we remember that cybersecurity experts are always stressing the importance of raising awareness among employees and developing a security-first culture to keep our companies safe and secure. When you operate in multiple countries and have a significant number of employees in those locations whose first language is not your company’s working language, one of the best ways to increase cybersecurity awareness is if everyone in every location learns about and understands your strategy in a language that’s more accessible to them. How do you do this? By translating your cybersecurity policies, procedures, training materials and so on into those languages your employees are more comfortable with.


A group of three computer monitors, behind which there is a globe of photos of people. The middle monitor also shows some of these photos. In the background, behind the globe, is a cityscape. The image represents a multinational company and its employees around the world.

Raising awareness about cybersecurity among multinational teams is crucial, and translation can help. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.


Translating your cybersecurity materials: approaches and strategies

There are two main approaches you can adopt to translating your cybersecurity documentation and training materials:

  • You can translate them into all the languages your employees around the world understand comfortably.
    Let’s consider the scenario of a multinational company based in Spain with offices in Europe, North America and Asia that’s developing a new cybersecurity awareness training programme. To ensure that all its employees understand the training and can apply what they learn in their work, the company outsources the translation of the programme into all the languages its employees use comfortably.
  • Or you can translate them into three or four accessible languages understood by most of your employees.
    In this scenario, our Spain-based multinational company decides to translate its awareness training programme into three languages: English, French and Mandarin Chinese. English covers its British, American and Canadian offices and is understood well by some other offices in Europe and Asia. French makes sense because most of its employees in the European Union outside Spain are in France. And Mandarin is a good idea as most of its offices in Asia are in China. By doing this, the company can reach a wider audience of employees who understand the training content.

This gives you a high-level game plan for translating your cybersecurity content. But there are other specific strategies you should consider to turn your employees into one of the most effective security controls. What’s more, these apply as much to your security-first culture in general as to how this is communicated effectively to all your employees, through translation if necessary.

Here are three strategies that help prioritise the human factor when building a cybersecurity culture:

Tailor cybersecurity awareness training to the audience

Creating a training slide deck just isn’t going to cut it. Employees must engage with the training, be able to relate to it and understand the impact of potential threats used by hackers. And different employees will need different training content. For example, the training for development staff will be very different from the training for finance staff. While both need awareness training to understand the threat landscape, developers need more focus on application security.

Providing training in accessible languages and making it interactive will certainly help employees engage with and retain the content. But you can go a step further and give them the opportunity to ask questions in a language they’re comfortable with. This will help ensure they have a clear understanding and can apply what they know in their work.

Communicate documentation clearly in accessible languages

Employees need to know what you expect of them when it comes to security policies and practices. For important issues such as password management, data protection, network security and remote access, you need to show that the company has a strong, consistent security posture that prioritises and values security-first actions.

To do this, you need well-defined guidelines, tools and training to help employees identify potential threats and be prepared to deal with them. All this needs to be not only in language that your employees can relate to, but also in a language that they can understand. So, translating policies and procedures is key.

Get feedback from employees to ensure they understand the policies and procedures. And don’t forget to update these translations regularly, especially when your documentation and tools change!

Transform employees into cybersecurity allies

The human element we most often hear about in cybersecurity is people being the weakest link. Whether it’s a disgruntled employee, an overconfident employee or an employee with a lack of knowledge, human actions – malicious or unintentional – are still the cause of most security breaches.

What if, instead of vilifying employees, you empower them to detect and report threats and champion your company’s security, turning them into an effective security control?

You can build this human firewall by making it easy for employees to report security incidents and rewarding them for doing so. Giving them access to an online process that’s easy to follow and in a language they’re comfortable with will encourage them to report potential incidents. And rewarding them will show them that you value their reports and that they’re making a difference to protecting your company.


A black and white drawing of a group of people with different coloured speech bubbles above and over them.

Turn your employees into a human firewall with online tools and processes in accessible languages. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.


Choosing professional translation by a specialist translator

Whichever approach you take to translating your cybersecurity documentation and training materials, there are two other key factors that will help you along the way.

Firstly, always use a professional translation service to ensure that the translations are accurate and of high quality. You could turn to machine translation or ask your own employees to do the translation work for you. But machine translation is still not as accurate as human translation, especially for complex, business-critical materials. And do you really want your employees spending their time translating, taking them away from their core duties?

Secondly, make sure you hire a translator who specialises in cybersecurity and can demonstrate this through previous-career experience, recent cybersecurity training or trustworthy client testimonials. Your best bet is to search online or on LinkedIn for a freelance translator who specialises in cybersecurity or information technology. A translation agency is another option, but be aware that they will use a pool of translators, so you’ll never get to know who’s actually doing the translation work. What’s more, very few of them will have the level of expertise in cybersecurity you need.

Managing translation costs by prioritising content

I’m sure you’re thinking this all sounds costly, especially if you’re a company with a worldwide presence and would be translating your cybersecurity content into multiple languages. The solution, at least initially, is to take a gradual approach, prioritising the most critical documents and training materials and translating these into the most accessible language(s) first. You can then translate them into your less widely used languages as a second step, and translate less critical content as needed.

Weighing the cost against the benefit that this translation exercise brings to your business is key. This will also help you decide what you should translate first. Just be sure you don’t lose sight of the end goal: keeping your company safe and secure from cyberattacks. According to Sophos’s 2023 survey, the mean cost of recovering from a ransomware attack in 2023 is around €1.68 million ($1.82 million) — and that doesn’t include paying the ransom.


A table showing the mean cost of recovering from a ransomware attack in 2021, 2022 and 2023 ($1.85, $1.4 and $1.82 million respectively).

Approximate cost of rectifying the impacts of a significant ransomware attack (considering downtime, people time, device cost, network cost, lost opportunity etc.). Source: The State of Ransomware 2023, Sophos Whitepaper, May 2023.


Adopting a ‘translation-by-design’ model going forward

When the time comes for you to update or create new training materials, I recommend thinking about translation from the very start of all your cybersecurity awareness-raising programmes. Just as a security-by-design model focuses on capturing the security aspects of an IT project early on and incorporating these into the development and implementation phases, translation by design (as I’ve termed it) flags translation requirements as early in the project as possible, so they don’t get forgotten down the line.


A diagram with 5 blue boxes going diagonally, top left to bottom right, linked by arrows. These boxes show the key phases of a project (requirements, design, implementation, verification and maintenance). There's a big arrow either side of these boxes: the one on the right says Security by Design; the one on the left Translation by Design.

Successful IT projects consider security needs from the outset, so why not translation needs too? Image adapted from Cetome.


Need some help with your cybersecurity translation projects?

In this blog post, we discussed how important it is to translate your cybersecurity content if you have employees in various locations around the world. We then looked at two approaches you could take to translating your cybersecurity content, and three strategies you should integrate not only into your translation approach, but also into your overall security-first culture. These will help you communicate effectively to all employees and prioritise the human factor.

However big your business is on the international stage, translating your cybersecurity materials can really help build a security-first culture and keep your multinational business safe from cyberattacks. But it’s likely to be a multifaceted and time-consuming project that’s not for the fainthearted. If you’re feeling overwhelmed just thinking about it, I can help!

Keith Baddeley Translations can manage your entire translation project from start to finish: planning, translation, proofreading, pre-delivery review and publication. If you’d like some help getting your cybersecurity documentation and training materials translated, get in touch!