How a Phishing Simulator Improves Cyber Posture

If you are not using a phishing simulator, you could be allowing vulnerabilities to remain unaddressed, and it is just a matter of time before those vulnerabilities are exploited by cyber threat actors.

It is easy to concentrate on improving technical defenses against phishing attacks, yet anti-phishing solutions are not 100% effective. Even if multiple solutions are used, such as a spam filter, web filter, and multi-factor authentication, some phishing attempts will not be blocked and will slip past those defenses. Phishing may also be conducted via text message, over the telephone, or via social media networks, and most organizations will not have anti-phishing solutions that can block those non-email-based phishing attacks.

It is therefore important to augment technical anti-phishing controls with security awareness training for the workforce, to ensure that employees are made aware of the threats they may encounter and are taught the skills they need to recognize and avoid those threats. A phishing simulator should be used as part of the security awareness training process.

How a Phishing Simulator Improves Your Security Posture

A phishing simulator is a platform that IT security teams use to conduct internal phishing campaigns on their workforce. The phishing emails sent internally are realistic and created based on real-world phishing attacks. The emails have the same lures and the same calls to action that are seen in real phishing attacks, except, simulated phishing emails are benign. If an employee opens the email, takes the action suggested in the message, or reports the email to the security team, the actions are logged.

So why conduct these phishing simulations? A phishing simulator allows the IT security team to gauge the level of security awareness of the workforce and find out which employees are fooled by phishing emails. Any individual who fails these internal phishing tests should be made aware of the error they made, and the bad response is turned into a training opportunity. The next time a phishing email arrives in their inbox, they should be more likely to recognize and avoid the threat.

A response to a simulated phishing email may be due to an employee failing to take their security awareness on board, but that is not always the case. If multiple employees fall for the same phishing email, it could be due to an issue with their security awareness training course. IT security teams can use the data from their phishing simulator to modify their training content to make sure it covers that specific type of threat.

If phishing simulations are not conducted, IT teams will be unaware whether the security awareness training course has had the desired effect and has resulted in an improvement in the security awareness of the workforce. Security awareness training is not just a checkbox item for compliance, it is vital to ensure that it is making a difference, and simulations provide an easy way to do that.

Phishing Simulator Do’s and Don’ts

It is important to have a clear picture of what you are planning to achieve by using phishing simulations and then to carefully create your program to meet your objectives. There are, however, some phishing simulation do’s and don’ts that you should be aware of to ensure you get the best return on your investment.

Don’t create your phishing program from scratch

The time it will take to set up your campaign from scratch. You will need to obtain realistic phishing domains, develop phishing content, send emails, and monitor the results, which is labor intensive, time-consuming, and difficult to get right. The best option is to use a phishing simulator from a third-party provider. This will give you tried and tested software, will provide you with a library of realistic phishing templates, and will generate the data you need in an easily digestible format. A phishing simulator platform will also automate the sending of emails and generate training content should employees fail the simulations.

Do operate with transparency

It may be tempting to use a phishing simulator to conduct sneaky simulations on the workforce. After all, that is what real cyber threat actors will do. This is not considered to be a good practice as it has the potential to create a hostile working environment and does not encourage the workforce to buy into your phishing simulation and training program. You should tell employees during their security awareness training that the training course includes phishing simulations, and that they are not being conducted to catch out employees, only to identify further training needs.

Don’t name and shame or punish employees

A phishing simulator should not be used as a tool for weeding out and punishing employees. Naming and shaming employees who fail phishing simulations can have a negative impact on morale and can easily cause friction between the IT department and employees. It is far better to take a more positive approach and encourage employees to take training and phishing seriously by rewarding departments that do well.

Do create a baseline against which you can measure progress

It is useful to create a baseline against which you can measure how security awareness changes over time. This will clearly demonstrate the ROI from security awareness training to the board and will provide you with data to gauge how resilient you are to phishing attacks.

Don’t delay acting on failed simulations

When an employee fails a phishing simulation, they should be told immediately what has happened and the actions they took that were risky. Training should be generated automatically that teaches the best practices that should be followed to avoid similar mistakes in the future. There is no better time to provide training than immediately after a mistake has been made.

Do Provide employees with a way to report suspicious emails

Security awareness training and a phishing simulator can help to eradicate risky behaviors, but one of the goals is to encourage employees to report suspicious emails, and you should make that as easy as possible. Use a phishing reporting tool – often provided as a mail client add-on – that allows one-click reporting of suspicious emails. If an employee finds a real phishing email in their inbox, chances are there will be others in the email system that the IT team will need to find and remove. Fast reporting can help IT teams to remove all traces of the threat.

Don’t just conduct standard phishing tests

You should be conducting a variety of phishing simulations that cover the different techniques used in real-world phishing attacks, and your simulations should vary in their level of difficulty. It is also important to structure your simulations, so don’t send the same email to everyone at the same time. Employees could tip each other off and you won’t get accurate results. Conduct simulations on small groups of the workforce at different times, and vary the templates used in each group.

The SafeTitan Security Awareness Training and Phishing Simulation Platform

TitanHQ has added the SafeTitan Security Awareness and Phishing Simulation Platform to its product portfolio to help businesses improve the security awareness of their workforce and gain insights into the susceptibility of individuals to phishing attacks. The security awareness training platform has an extensive library of content including training on phishing and a wide range of other security threats. The content is interactive, enjoyable, and gamified, and is delivered in easy-to-assimilate chunks that can be fit into busy work schedules – No individual training content is longer than 10 minutes.

SafeTitan makes conducting phishing simulations easy for security teams. Hundreds of templates of real-world phishing threats are included, and the content is regularly updated to cover the latest tactics of phishers. There is also scope for creating customized phishing tests and spear-phishing simulations and conducting text message simulations in addition to email phishing campaigns. SafeTitan is the only behavior-driven security awareness platform that delivers training in real-time in response to errors, bad security practices, and failed phishing simulations, ensuring training is delivered to the right people at the right time.

SafeTitan helps businesses improve the security awareness of the workforce and create a human firewall. Contact TitanHQ today for more information and to register for a free trial of the solution to see for yourself how easy the platform is to use.