If you want to create a culture of security in your organization, you need to provide comprehensive security awareness training to teach employees the skills they will need to be able to identify and avoid cyber threats. It is also important to conduct phishing simulations on all members of the workforce.

Phishing simulations are realistic but fake phishing emails that are sent to employees to determine the level of security awareness of the organization, assess whether employee security awareness training has been effective, identify any gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed, and to identify any individuals who require further training.

If phishing simulations are not used, organizations will be unaware whether their training has worked and has reduced the susceptibility of the workforce to phishing attacks, and gaps in knowledge could exist that could easily be exploited in real world phishing attacks.

Sending phishing emails to employees to see if they click links or open potentially malicious attachments is important, but to get the full benefits of phishing simulation exercises you need to create a structured phishing simulation program. To help you get started we have provided some tips on how to run effective phishing simulations in the workplace, and highlight some areas where businesses go wrong.

How to Run Effective Phishing Simulations at Work

One of most common assumptions made about phishing simulations is that in order to determine whether employees will respond to genuine phishing emails, employees should not be aware that you will be conducting phishing simulations. That is a mistake. When employers conduct phishing simulations on an unsuspecting workforce, it has the potential to backfire.

Employees often feel like they are being targeted and it can create friction between employees and the IT department, and that is best avoided. You should warn employees when you provide training that part of the training process will involve phishing simulations and that the simulations are not being conducted to catch employees out but to assess how effective training has been. Do not provide specific notice when you are conducting campaigns, just make the workforce aware that you do periodically run phishing simulations.

When you conduct phishing simulations, the emails you send need to be realistic. You should use templates that are based on real-world phishing attacks, after all, the aim of the simulations is to determine if employees will fall for real phishing emails.  You should use a variety of lures and send different types of phishing emails, including emails with links, attachments, and Word documents with macros. You should also vary the difficulty of the simulations and include targeted spear-phishing attacks.

Before sending simulated phishing emails to the workforce, test out the emails in small numbers, as this will allow you to correct any problems. Do not send the same email to everyone at the same time, as this often results in employees tipping each other off and will not give you accurate data. Vary the emails you send in any one campaign, and this can be avoided. Each email should include at least two red flags that will allow it to be identified as a phishing attempt. Be careful about the lures you choose. If you send an email offering a pay rise – there are genuine phishing campaigns that do this – be prepared for a backlash, as such a campaign is likely to cause upset. These types of phishing simulations are best avoided.

The first phishing campaigns you send should serve as a baseline against which you can measure how awareness improves over time, so use a moderately difficult phishing attempt, not an incredibly difficult spear phishing email. Anyone can be fooled by a phishing email so ensure that everyone is part of the program, including board members. They too need to be taught how to recognize phishing emails and be tested to see how security aware they are. The C-suite is the top target for phishers.

It is important not to name and shame employees that fail phishing simulations. A failed phishing simulation should be seen as an opportunity for further training, not a reason for punishing an employee. If you opt for positive rather than negative reinforcement, you are likely to get much better results.

Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulations from TitanHQ

SafeTitan from TitanHQ is a comprehensive security awareness training platform with an extensive library of training courses, videos & quizzes. The content is highly interactive and fun, with short and efficient testing and a phishing simulation platform with hundreds of real-world phishing templates to use. SafeTitan is also the only behavior-driven security awareness solution that delivers security training in real-time. Phishing simulations have shown that SafeTitan reduces staff susceptibility to phishing by up to 92%.

For more information and to arrange a product demonstration, give the TitanHQ team a call.