What is a Phishing Simulation?

Although having a perimeter defense to protect companies from phishing attacks is effective to some degree, based on research from Akamai, roughly 1 in 5 phishing attacks go undetected despite blacklists.

This begs the question, what can we do when phishing attacks breach the perimeter? Well, at that moment, your employees serve as a complementary line of defense against cybercriminals. Therefore, having a workforce that is conditioned to fight phishing attacks is vital so they can identify and report suspicious emails. 

What are Phishing Simulations, and How do they Help?

As the name suggests, phishing simulations are simulated attacks sent in from the company to its employees to test whether or not they can recognize phishing attempts. This technique plays a pivotal role in every organization’s cybersecurity awareness strategy.  By being exposed to these simulated attacks, employees learn to recognize and respond to actual attacks, which builds their confidence and ability to maintain constant vigilance against such threats.

In phishing simulations, employees experience firsthand the different scenarios of an actual phishing attack without jeopardizing their company’s real-life assets. Phishing simulations offer a safe space for employees to train themselves by removing the stigma associated with actually committing cybersecurity mistakes. This way, they can progressively become the company’s strongest assets against cybercriminals.

CISO’s and IT department heads usually use phishing simulations as a first step when they run cybersecurity awareness campaigns. This happens because the results obtained from the simulation showcase the employees’ current standing and will help CISOs figure out what kind of training employees need. Furthermore, they expose employees to training to educate them on how to recognize and avoid potential threats. 

Phishing simulations can also be used as a post-training strategy. In this scenario, simulations are a way to measure a training module’s effectiveness and if employees absorbed the content.

How Phishing Simulations Work

An ideal phishing simulation will resemble a real-world cyber-attack. The email template and landing page should be realistic and credible. It can include an endless set of common corporate email themes such as password reset, HR communications, bank details, etc. It should also constantly be inciting employees to open email attachments, click on links, or enter credentials.

A successful simulation will give you actionable information like:

Using this information, IT and Infosec teams can take the appropriate action/s to educate employees on what they might be lacking. 

The frequency of phishing simulation emails is up to each company’s strategy. Still, we recommend you do it frequently enough to make sure your employees are being educated regularly. Also, sending themed phishing emails using special occasions like holidays might be helpful, as your employees will face that in real life. A popular theme amongst real-life phishing emails right now is something related to COVID-19.

When choosing the right tool to help you run phishing simulations, consider the importance of having suitable templates that match every department of your company – the more customizable the templates are, the better. Attackers do their best to personalizing the emails they will send to an organization. Therefore you should think the same way to protect your workforce better.

Also, you might want to prioritize a product that automates processes and makes your job easier. Providers that offer easy customization and a library of existing simulated emails and landing pages will help your team increase efficiency by eliminating time-consuming tasks. 

Benefits of Phishing Simulations

Thanks to employee behavioral data obtained after completing phishing simulations, companies can identify vulnerable employees that exhibit a high need for more phishing-related training. This information can then be used to create your company’s risk score and set plans to further develop their employees’ strengths and mitigate their isolated weaknesses when it comes to cybersecurity. 

One significant benefit of running phishing simulation campaigns is to improve the cyber behaviors of employees in the long run and to make the employee a key element in the organization’s cyber defense strategy. 

Several regulations such as the GDPR and PDPA have emerged that require organizations to train their employees on the cybersecurity front frequently. Breaching such laws involves payment of heavy fines and/or other severe penalties. When organizations run phishing simulations, it is counted as a part of cybersecurity training. Hence, they would fulfil these regulations and be painted in a good light by not just the rules but also the potential consumers. 

In summary, the results you get from a phishing simulation campaign guide you to address your teams’ needs in terms of cybersecurity awareness training content.

Phishing Simulations and cybersecurity training are complementary strategies that should always walk together to keep your workforce aware and protected against cyber threats.

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