Phishing is the most common type of cybersecurity attack on the internet. Such data breaches could lead to substantial financial losses. Your employees deal with your organization’s networks and information systems daily, making them real targets for phishing attacks. This is why they need adequate phishing awareness training.

Not to spook you, but your employees may be your organization’s biggest vulnerability. But with proper training, they could be your first line of defense. A phishing awareness training program is a security awareness training program that employs realistic phishing attempts in a controlled environment to build employee resilience toward phishing attacks.

What is Phishing?

If you’re one of those individuals who believe you are past being defrauded on the internet, well, this is for you.

A phishing attempt is very subtle and may appear as an authentic request until you are hoaxed off your well-earned money. But that will not happen. We outline all you need to know about phishing and why you need awareness training.

Phishing is a cyber-attack where the attacker tries to dupe individuals into sharing sensitive information, such as credit card details, login credentials, and other confidential information. Easy to spot from a mile away, right? No. These attacks don’t come as fake right away, they may be deceptively cunning.

Typically, the attacker will pose as a legitimate company name or entity, one that is well-known and has a reputation. In fact, hackers will use real brand images and logos. They will then send emails or malicious text messages purportedly from the said entity containing an attachment or link. When you click it, it redirects to another tab where your personal information is collected.

Tip: Any time you are redirected to a third-party website and your personal data (such as bank account information) is requested, beware. This could be a phishing attack in progress.

Types of Phishing

There are numerous types of phishing techniques. The three most popular are:

  • Spear Phishing. Targeted attacks on a specific individual and may be used for identity theft. Always double-check the sender’s email address before you respond.
  • HTTPS Phishing. Use of a malicious link or phishing webpage by cybercriminals to trick users into giving them your confidential information. Always confirm the URL of the website before logging in (it should have the tell-tale padlock icon of an authentic site).
  • Email Phishing. Cyber attackers send you a phishing email pretending to be someone they are not, wanting you to provide them with sensitive information. Ensure that you are sure of the email sender.

Other types of phishing attacks include:

  • Clone Phishing.
  • Angler Phishing.
  • Whaling.
  • Vishing.
  • Pharming.
  • Search Engine Phishing.
  • Image Phishing.
  • Evil Twin Phishing.
  • Social Engineering Attack.
  • Website Spoofing.
  • Pop-up Phishing.
  • Domain Phishing.
  • Social Media Phishing.
  • Man-in-the-middle (MITM) Attacks.

How to successfully train employees on phishing awareness

Your organization needs a phishing awareness training program. It is an essential requirement for the cybersecurity of your systems. Your organization should understand first how cyber-resilient it is prior to the training and set measuring standards after every phishing simulation.

The steps are pretty straightforward:

1. Start with the basics

During the phishing training exercise, explain what phishing is and the different types of phishing. Do not assume that phishing is public knowledge. Remind them that phishing is a crime.

The following statistics should be enough to drive this point home:

Relay this information to your employees to instill shock value. They will not want to be part of such depressing statistics.

2. Use real examples

The importance of using a phishing simulation is two-fold. One, it gives the trainees a clearer and more relatable perspective, and two, it reduces the chances of wrong application of what they have learned.

Show your employees how to identify phishing attempts and spot warning signs by providing samples of how to do so. Check whether they can convert the theory they’ve learned into practical usefulness through mock phishing awareness training exercises.

3. Hover over all links before clicking them

Sometimes, innocent-looking links may be dangerous phishing links. Employees should be trained to hover over all links before they open them to identify where the link leads to before being actually redirected. A small window will pop up showing you where the link will lead you to.

This will enable them to detect a phishing link and not click it. A single careless click may be all it takes for cybercriminals to take over your systems. Phishing URLs lead to illegitimate sites that could cause identity theft or malware infections.

4. Don’t open all email attachments

Cybercriminals will disguise emails with malicious attachments, mostly in the form of Microsoft Office documents. Within these attachments are Trojans and ransomware that could be detrimental to your organization’s cybersecurity.

Tip: Don’t let an articulate, enticing, or threatening email subject line fool you. It may be a clever way to avoid detection.

5. Use email and web filters

This strategy filters out phishing emails before they get to your employees, in a semblance of ‘prevention is better than cure.’ This technology uses secure email filters and gateways to ensure that every incoming and outgoing email will pass through it and monitor these emails.

6. Provide a safe space for reporting phishing attempts

Have a clear framework and steps for your employees to report phishing attempts, and let it be done without any judgment or repercussions whatsoever. The exact moment one of your employees discovers that it is really a phish or suspects that it could be one, they should immediately alert the IT team or the relevant authorities that you’ve put in place.

7. Have consistent and continuous phishing training

Training employees should be up-to-date to keep up with the latest phishing techniques and how cybercriminals are upscaling their phishing tactics. Offer additional training in areas where you observe them lacking, such as updated simulated tests, to ensure your employees understand how cyber attacks work.

Phishing Simulations

It is imperative to set up phishing awareness simulations both before and after training exercises so as to understand where your employees now lie on the phishing detection and management chart.

Tip: You can use our Digital Risk Protection (DRP) service to help you see and assess what a cyber attacker sees on the outside before targeting your organization.

The first thing your employees should know is that if they spot a phishing attempt, they should report it immediately to the IT department.

The following are some tips to ensure your phishing awareness training exercise is a success:

1. Send phishing emails sporadically

Also, since the aim of this exercise is to gather workable and authentic data, you’ll need to set up simulations periodically- often, but not too often. Your employees should not have any preconceived idea that it could be a test.

2. Think like a cybercriminal

Another thing to ensure is that you do not send phishing emails to all departments at once. Make it believable. If you’d want to send phishing emails to a targeted department first, then another later, and so on, do so with prudence and tact.

Tip: Ask yourself, “What (link) would my employees most likely click?” Use cunning keywords, such as “Offer Expires Soon” or “Invoice.” Anything to get their interests piqued.

3. Collect data and track performance

Use software to track and measure how many times emails are opened, attachments are opened, and clickthrough rates. This is the essence of the training program; to test how vigilant your employees are. The rule is, “If it’s a phish, don’t take the bait,” meaning don’t open any suspicious links.

At Sapphire, we have an array of tools to help you in creating an effective cybersecurity strategy by using the data we collect from such simulations.

Examples of Phishing Emails

Cybercriminals may use diverse tactics to defraud users. Phishing emails may have the following enticing subject lines:

  • Invoice
  • Account deactivation
  • Tax refunds
  • Compromised credit card
  • Google Docs login
  • Software update
  • Confirm your PayPal account

Conclusion on Phishing Awareness

It is scary thinking about what a simple click could cause and how bolder cyber criminals are becoming in their phishing attempts aimed at defrauding you of your hard-earned money. You should therefore train employees to be smarter than these vicious criminals.

As part of your ongoing commitment to improve employee resilience, get in touch with us to make your organization a safer place to work at.

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