Why Is Phishing Awareness Training Important?

By Theo Zafirakos, CISO, Terranova Security

Security awareness training courses, while inherently valuable to any organization’s information security strategy, need practical support to be effective. In other words, just showing employees videos or asking them to complete quizzes isn’t enough on their own – an organization must ensure they’ve acquired the knowledge they need through simulated phishing attacks.

What is Phishing Awareness Training?

Phishing threats are continuously evolving to become more complex. As a result, they continue to grab international headlines, with many well-known organizations bearing the brunt of a very public fallout. But what does that mean for the average user? Are they really at risk of being targeted by a cyber criminal?

Phishing awareness training helps answer these questions. Phishing awareness training refers to a training campaign that educates end users on specific phishing threats they may encounter in their daily lives. Effective phishing awareness training initiatives leverage phishing simulations to enhance employee understanding, allowing them to detect and avoid phishing attacks in a safe environment.

Simulating phishing attacks on the workforce also allows companies to assess their organization’s maturity regarding its security awareness, and subsequently, optimize future iterations of campaign learning material. Testing users and measuring where their security awareness knowledge and skills at any given point strengthens data protection in the long-term.

Phishing Awareness Training: 3 Phishing Simulation Essentials

Simulating phishing is an efficient way to test employees’ skills and measure their progress. A test provides data on which employees have been baited by the phishing email through clicking on the corresponding links. Users can learn to identify suspicious emails, and in turn, apply security awareness best practices by having the chance to experience a phishing attack.

So, how do you run an effective simulation?

  1. Get Buy-In from Internal Leaders

The first step to any good phishing simulation is getting buy-in from management.An organization’s executives must buy into simulation programs to effectively implement a security awareness culture.

To ensure leader buy-in, speaking “the language of business” helps communicates the benefits of phishing simulations. Leaders need to understand the connections between phishing simulations and business objectives. To do this, they need examples of how security awareness leads to better business outcomes – using data.

  1. Craft an Actionable Phishing Simulation Strategy

Next comes planning. Create a plan not to send tests too frequently, as employees will come to expect them, and don’t send them too infrequently since you need to gather statistics, draw reports, and always keep users sharp.

Don’t send phishing emails to the entire company at once, as this will likely spark suspicion. Instead, send them to specific departments. For example, to the invoicing department, send emails with an urgent tone so that employees act with haste. This technique is commonly used by hackers to get people to click on links or download attachments.

Most importantly, think like a cyber criminal. What is going to get employees clicking? Subject lines that include the terms ‘unpaid invoice’, ‘free’, or ‘exclusive offer’ draw users’ attention, which will force them to put their phishing detection skills to the test.

  1. Leverage Data-Driven Insights

During your phishing simulation campaign, make sure to track email open rates, attachment downloads,information disclosure, and click through rates. Draw reports on the number of users who have fallen for the phishing attack and how many employees have reported the incident.

This phishing simulation data is essential to growing and optimizing your training program. It will give leadership insight into the effectiveness of behavior change initiatives and take them to the next level. The organization can fine-tune its long-term strategy to align its larger business goals with that intel.

Phish Now or Get Caught Later

Phishing is arguably one of the biggest problem’s organizations face. No two attacks are the same. Nonetheless, when employees are trained in security awareness, you create a workforce that is quick to detect malicious emails and react according to cyber security best practices.

As you conduct your phishing awareness training, you add value to your overall security awareness initiative. By testing employees’ knowledge and skills, you contribute to behavior change at a more extensive scale, whereby users are encouraged to train and become more informed and alert in cyber security matters.

If you’d like additional insight into how you can construct the best phishing awareness training program, download the latest Phishing Benchmark Global Report.

Hot Topics

Related Articles