What is phishing awareness training?

Travis Good
January 17, 2022

What is phishing awareness training?

Phishing attacks are one of the most common forms of attack against employees. In a world full of remote workers, communications over email have never been more important or more integrated into work.

Lists of emails, the primary target of phishing attacks, are easy to acquire. In addition, the software tools required to launch these attacks are readily available on the dark web, meaning all of the ingredients are there to create phishing attacks at scale through automated means (software).

Because of the widespread nature of these attacks, it is the most common type of successful attack directed against employees.

The common nature of these phishing attacks mandates that company create a phishing awareness program. But what is a phishing awareness program and how can companies create them as a part of broader employee security awareness training? Phishing training is almost always a component of awareness training but increasingly companies are created dedicated phishing awareness training and trying to integrate simulated phishing campaigns into broader security awareness training.

In this post, we'll walk through phishing awareness, how to implement implement a simulated phishing campaigns that simulate phishing attacks,  how a phishing awareness program can reduce the risk of phishing attempts, and how these programs fit into broader security awareness.

Phishing attacks are social engineering attacks

Phishing attacks are social engineering attacks that are most frequently executed over email. Phishing emails are fake emails that attempt to get a user to take an action, most commonly clicking on phishing link. While email gateways can block or prevent phishing emails from getting into end users email inboxes, some phishing emails get past gateways.

What are the 3 steps of a phishing attack?

There are multiple steps to an actual phishing attack. These are broken out below. These are increasingly hard to prevent, meaning phishing attack attempts in general are hard to prevent, making phishing and security awareness training all the more important.

  1. Find target emails.
  2. Craft content for phishing emails.
  3. Send phishing emails.

Examples of Phishing attacks.

Almost all phishing attacks happen by email and are usually grouped into 2 types. The first type of attack is generic and is usually delivered at a very large scale. These attacks are a numbers game and are successful because of the number of emails that are targeted.

The second example of phishing attack is called spear phishing and is much more targeted. This type of attack is often targeted  individuals in the corporate or finance sector or targeted at individuals in particular. These types of attacks utilize LinkedIn data to craft targeted spam attacks. Similar to the intelligence of businesses, cybercriminals possess varying degrees of sophistication. Cybercriminals are amateurs that are used to target people using phishing or other malicious techniques.

What is a phishing campaign?

Phishing campaigns involve sending email  containing malicious information. Cybercriminals employ Phishing campaigns as a fraudulent method that are employed to steal information by disguising as trustworthy organizations or reliable persons in an email.

Phishing awareness training using real-world attacks

Phishing awareness training is a simulation that used authentic phishing e-mails in protected environments to help employees understand, via real life workflows, how phishing works. The phishing e-mails are slightly modified for training purposes but for all intents and purposes are real phishing emails delivered a simulations.

Why are simulated phishing campaigns important?

Phishing awareness training is a training program aimed at educating the user about certain phishing threats in their daily and work life. Security hygiene is enhanced by measuring the security awareness of the user and measuring how the user's skill level has changed over a period of time. This type of tracking and reporting is a good proxy for organizational risk that can then be tracked over time.

Some examples of companies that offer simulated phishing campaigns are Mimecast, KnowBe4, and Cofense.

Help employees recognize and report phishing attempts

People, especially in a remote work environment, are the first line of access to company systems and data. Your workforce can be your greatest vulnerability if they're not notified or trained to detect phishing attempts or how to report them.

As we wrote in the opening, phishing and similar social engineering tactics are currently the biggest attack vectors facing employees. More than 90,000 phishing campaigns are launched monthly. Surveys show phishing is the most common threat in today's workforce and work environment. It can't be easily avoided through a simple method. And there are not tools that can automate it away.

How to make phishing training easy and effective?

Phishing awareness training is designed to improve employee responses to a phishing attack. The phishing training program helps employees detect and react effectively to phishing emails. However, most phishing programs are hard to configure. Some companies craft their own phishing simulation content based on real world attacks that have been launched against those companies.

How can phishing awareness be improved?

There are multiple best practices you can use to reduce the risk of phishing attacks on your employees. Some best practices are below.

  • Do not send out sensitive data or personal information such as passwords or credit cards.
  • Avoid using the email link by typing the corresponding e-mail address into your browser.
  • Do not send emails with inappropriate content.
  • Check the sender.
  • Check grammar and spelling.
  • Be wary of forcing or urgent requests via email.
  • Use you gut.
  • Report early and often.

Start with employee training

Phishing awareness training begins by empowering your employees with information about the dangers that phishing can cause. And by giving them real world practice with phishing attacks. In addition to simulated attacks, depending on your organizational culture, you might be doing the training via written documents, online videos, or zoom meetings.

Monitor results and improve performance

Using the data gathered through your phishing awareness program, you'll be focused on your security measures, strengthen your awareness of the threat and improve phishing defenses. Use the results to measure your campaign's effectiveness by documenting any progress. The goal is to continually improve your posture against phishing attacks.

Is it ethical to "trick" employees?

A frequent question about phishing simulation is about the ethical nature of tricking employees. When these phishing programs are pushed out to employees, there is frequently push back in some form and fashion. Nobody likes to be tricked or seen as a pawn.

Because of this, it is best to communicate about phishing awareness training with your entire staff before launching it. Be proactive about answering questions and addressing concerns. Discuss the importance of this training. Talk about how anybody can be a victim and everybody will be a target.

Haekka Security Awareness Training

Heakka offers security awareness is delivered within the flow and context of work. This awareness training program makes it incredibly simple to deliver employee training to the right person at the right time. Awareness training doesn't have to a pain for admins or a punishment for employees.

With Haekka, employees get security awareness that's relevant, including topics such as phishing, spear phishing, phishing links, ceo fraud, social engineering attacks, and examples of real world attacks.

To learn more, schedule a demo today.