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Phishing Simulation: Why Phish Your Users?

Phishing simulation

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By the end of 2021, ransomware attacks had escalated to one attempt every 11 seconds. Data breaches also continue at a heady pace, with almost 19 billion records breached during the first half of 2021.

Many of these attacks use phishing or phished data at some point in the attack and statistics evidence this with phishing being the number one attack vector, increasing in volume by 161% in 2021.

Why Phish Your Users?

Phishing plays on human fallibility and behaviour making the tactic insidious and hard to protect against. According to research, 96% of data breaches begin with a phishing email. A phishing email is less like a bomb going off and more like a slow-burning fuse; phishing results in stolen login credentials, malware infection, and can leave your network vulnerable to slow data theft and IT havoc over many months.

One report found that 74% of phishing emails were used to steal the credentials that your employees use to log in to your corporate apps.

Phishing works because it tricks people into doing things that work to the advantage of the cybercriminal who sent the malicious email. For example, email phishing typically uses ploys such as making a recipient feel worried that if they don’t click a link they may end up in trouble at work. Conditions that elicit fear, uncertainty, and doubt, alongside urgency, and other psychological tricks make phishing the number one method to begin a cyber attack.

Employees need to understand these crafty phishing tricks to stand a chance of resisting the urge to click a malicious link or download an infected attachment.

To help prevent your company from becoming a number in a bunch of phishing statistics you can use a phishing simulation platform to phish your users. For a more in-depth look at how phishing works and to help you get started read the MetaCompliance Ultimate Guide to Phishing.

What is Phishing Simulation?

Phishing simulations are cloud-based services that generate simulated phishing emails. These emails reflect ongoing and emerging phishing threats. The simulated phishing emails are sent out to recipients across an organisation as part of an organised campaign by a company, often with help from an experienced security awareness organisation.

The simulated phishing emails then help to train staff how to spot phishing tactics.

How Does Phishing Simulation Work?

Phishing simulation tools work as part of a wider security awareness campaign. They sit neatly into an organised strategy of education and awareness that works in harmony to improve email security and reduce cyber attacks on an organisation.

Phishing simulation tools, such as MetaPhish, are cloud-based and can be configured and managed centrally from an administration and reporting console. The phishing simulation begins by configuring ready-to-use templates to reflect a known or emerging phishing attack.

The templates are designed to employ well-known brands that are often used in real phishing campaigns. For example, brands such as Microsoft are regularly the top, most used spoofed brands, in phishing campaigns.

A phishing simulation template includes the phishing email and any related spoof landing pages required to take a user through the phishing lifecycle. When an employee receives a simulated phishing email, if the email includes a malicious link and the employee then clicks on the link, the employee will be taken to this associated landing page.

Importantly, phishing simulation tools must be highly configurable. Phishing templates should be modifiable to suit the exact environment of different industry sectors.

Some phishing simulation tools, such as MetaPhish, come with expert third-party help to ensure the design of the templates closely matches real phishing campaigns. This ensures that they are as closely matched to a real phish as possible. In doing so, this makes the results of simulated phishing exercise more accurate.

Making Phishing Simulation a Learning Experience

It is one thing to phish your users but making sure they learn from the experience can be complicated. Therefore, phishing simulation tools must use active learning. If an employee falls for the tricks of the simulated phishing email, the event must be turned into something positive.

Point-of-need learning pulls the user out of the phishing lifecycle to emphasise where they went wrong and their vulnerabilities. Typically, this occurs at a juncture, such as when an employee clicks on a phishing link or enters login credentials to a phishing website.

Once a phishing scam occurs, the employee is presented with a warning message, infographic, or survey on screen, that explains to the user what has occurred, what might happen if this was a real phishing email, and how to make sure that they do not fall for that trick again.

Capturing the Phishing Simulation Results

Metrics are an important aspect of Security Awareness Training and phishing simulation. Measuring the success of a Security Awareness Training program allows an organisation to finely tune the delivery of the material to improve outcomes.

Phishing simulation platforms, such as MetaPhish, offer a reporting dashboard that displays data results from phishing simulations: for example, how many of your employees clicked a link in a simulated phishing email.

The reports generated can be made granular to the level of the device used to access the phishing email, allowing further focus when creating follow-on phishing simulation campaigns. Individual departments or user groups can also have a training focus, allowing your organisation to drill down on specific areas of the business that work with sensitive or financial data, such as accounts payable or HR.

Phishing simulation is a hands-on way of educating your workforce about the dangers of phishing and the clever social engineering tactics used by cybercriminals. The technique for training employees about security awareness is also recognised by information security standards such as ISO 27001.

By employing a cloud-based phishing simulation platform you have the chance to play cybercriminals at their own game and win.

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