It has now been over a year since the U.S Postal Service was affected by a phishing campaign that resulted in the exposure of the personal information of 800,000 current and former workers, yet the postal service is still not effectively dealing with the phishing threat. Employees have been tested, and they are not identifying phishing emails.

Postal Service Employees are at Risk of Falling for Phishing Emails

The network data breach of 2014 occurred as a result of employees falling for spear phishing campaigns, which allowed criminals to gain access to postal service networks containing sensitive data. The data thieves were able to gain access to the network and exfiltrate data without meeting much in the way of resistance. It would appear that if a similar campaign was conducted again now, even more data may be exposed.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently took the decision to put postal service workers to the test, to determine whether lessons have been learned since last year. In total, 3,125 fake phishing emails were sent to employees of the U.S Postal Service to determine whether they were actually able to identify a potential phishing campaign.

There was some good news. 75% of workers were able to resist the temptation to click on the phishing links in the emails. The bad news was 25% did click. Unfortunately, all it takes is for one person to respond to a phishing email for criminals to gain access to data. 780 responses to fake phishing emails shows risk is not being effectively managed.

However, perhaps worse still, was the lack of compliance with policies that had been put in place in the wake of last year’s successful attack. For instance, the postal service’s Computer Incident Response Team should be alerted if a suspicious email is received by workers, yet only 7% of employees did so during the test.

The reason is perhaps quite easy to explain. Only 4% of staff had completed the Postal Service cybersecurity training course, so presumably were unaware of the policy of reporting suspicious emails, if they were in fact able to identify them as suspicious.

OIG Report Shows Postal Service is Not Dealing with the Phishing Threat

The OIG report on the cybersecurity test stated that awareness training does have a positive impact, and can substantially reduce the risk of employees responding to a phishing campaign. Research shows training can reduce security-related risks by as much as 70%.

Policies must of course be turned into procedures, and the staff must receive training. The OIG said, “When management does not require all employees with network access to take annual information security awareness training, users are less likely to appropriately respond to threats.”

One of the main problems for organizations trying to tackle the threat of phishing is the fact that criminal organizations and hackers are developing ever more complex and convincing campaigns to fool users into opening malware-infected attachments and visiting links to malware-infected websites. However, if training is not provided to the staff, even uncomplicated phishing campaigns could well succeed.

At present, only new members of staff and CIO office members are required to undergo annual cybersecurity training: That is not the most effective way of dealing with the phishing threat. However, in response to the OIG report, the Postal Service will be implementing new training policies by April 2016.