Phishing is the most common vector used by cybercriminals to attack businesses and attacks have grown in sophistication to the point where no single cybersecurity solution is now effective at blocking all of these threats. Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics, techniques, and procedures to bypass cybersecurity solutions and fool end users and businesses now need to implement multiple cybersecurity solutions to counter the threat, such as spam filters, web filters, antivirus software, endpoint detection solutions, and multi-factor authentication. They also need to provide security awareness training to teach employees how to recognize and avoid phishing and other cybersecurity threats.

With all of these solutions in place, you will be well protected from phishing attacks; however, it is important to also conduct phishing simulations on your employees. Many businesses provide security awareness training during the onboarding process and annually thereafter but then fail to conduct phishing simulations.

Phishing simulations are proven to improve protection against phishing attacks, with TitanHQ’s data showing customers who regularly conduct phishing simulations can reduce susceptibility to phishing attempts by up to 80%. In this article, we provide some of the reasons why phishing simulations are such an important part of any cybersecurity strategy and why they are so effective at improving the security posture of a business.

What are Phishing Simulations?

Phishing simulations are phishing attempts conducted by businesses on their own workforce. Emails are sent that closely mirror the phishing attempts that are conducted by cybercriminals in real-world attacks, the only difference being a failure will not result in a costly network compromise and data breach. Phishing simulations are typically conducted by the IT department, which can create a simulation program for the entire workforce that is tailored to the types of phishing threats that employees are likely to encounter.

When a simulated email is opened and any action is taken by an employee, the actions are logged. These simulations usually run continuously throughout the year with each employee receiving one or more simulated emails at random times each month. The emails range from phishing attempts that should be very easy to identify, to much more sophisticated phishing attempts.

Why are Phishing Simulations Important?

If you provide security awareness training, how can you tell if that training has been effective and is actually reducing susceptibility to phishing attacks? You can conduct quizzes at the end of each training session, but they will not tell you if the training is being applied in the workplace. Employees will likely remember the points raised in training at the end of the training session but may forget them in a month or two. Phishing simulations provide valuable information about whether the training is working as they are likely to be received by employees when they are not thinking about security. The simulations therefore give a good indication of whether the training is working

Security awareness training costs a business money, as the training must be paid for and will take employees away from their jobs. That money is usually very well spent, but the board will likely want to see the return on investment. Phishing simulations provide that data. Conducting phishing simulations before training and regularly thereafter will give a clear picture of how the spending on training is benefiting the business in terms of reducing susceptibility to phishing attacks.

Phishing simulations are not a way of catching out employees. They are an important part of the training process. If a phishing simulation is failed, it just means that the training has not been effective for that person against a specific threat. The specific type of email that was not identified should generate a relevant training module about that threat, which should be provided at the point of the failure. If phishing simulations are not conducted, if a real threat is encountered, the employee would be likely to respond in the same way and fail to identify it, resulting in an email account compromise. When an employee fails a simulation, they should be automatically scheduled to receive more simulated emails, to help them improve their skills at detecting phishing.

Phishing simulations give employees practice at responding to phishing and help them develop ‘muscle memory.’ If an employee never gets any practice after the training session they are more likely to forget their training. Phishing simulations keep security fresh in the mind and are an important way of developing a security culture, where employees always stop and think before taking an action that could lead to a network compromise. They also help to condition the workforce to report any suspicious emails, which is vital for the IT security team.

Cybersecurity Solutions from TitanHQ

TitanHQ can help businesses improve their defenses against phishing and malware through three cybersecurity solutions and adopt a defense-in-depth strategy – SpamTitan Email Security, WebTitan DNS Filtering, and SafeTitan Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulation. For more information on these solutions and to start conducting phishing simulations, give the TitanHQ team a call today. All TitanHQ solutions are available on a free trial to allow you to evaluate their effectiveness in your own environment before deciding on a purchase.