In 2021, 86% of organizations said that at least one of their employees had clicked on a phishing link. this statistic is dangerously high. It’s more vital than ever for organizations to invest in phishing simulation and testing solutions to train your users to spot these phishing lures and decrease the chances of having to deal with a full cyber attack.
As cyberthreats evolve, your security defenses need to evolve in lock step—and that includes training your employees. But for every security improvement that your employees make, cybercriminals will innovate once again.
Cybersecurity awareness training needs to be more than a formality. It’s not enough to provide a few unengaging, click-through training modules once-a-year—users need to continuously be engaged and tested so that cyberattacks are always fresh in their minds. After all, employees that both know what to look for and can regularly practice those skills are far more likely to spot and report a real attack when faced with one.
Phishing awareness training is one of the best ways to train your employees in a real-life, safe environment. Simulations work by sending users mock phishing emails that are designed to look and feel genuine. The testing part comes in the user’s response—to successfully pass a simulation, users must report the emails as phishing attempts. Many vendors offer a free plugin that enables users to safely and easily report any suspicious emails directly to their security teams. A user that clicks on any of the attachments or URLs within the email has failed. Many of the tools can automatically enroll these users on another training course (thanks to comprehensive reporting tools) enabling organizations to identify and remediate these behaviors.
We’ve put together a list of the top phishing simulation testing solutions, so your organization can transform its employees into human phishing detectors. We’ll talk through some of their key features and how they work, as well as how easy they are to use and implement.
What Is Phishing?
Phishing is a type of cyber-attack where malicious actors attempt to lure unsuspecting users into a specific action. In some instances, the user may be encouraged to click on a link, or download a file, that appears to be innocent and harmless, but is in fact malware. This malware can wreak havoc on a user’s system. Alternatively, a malicious actor may pose as a reliable individual or organization and encourage the target to divulge sensitive information.
Phishing attackers often use a “scatter gun” approach. They will spam hundreds and thousands of accounts with the same phishing attack, in the hope the one or two of the users will overlook the risk. This type of attack is not particularly sophisticated, but it still gets results.
How Can Phishing Simulation And Testing Solutions Help?
Phishing simulation can be particularly effective at preventing phishing as it gives users and opportunity to experience what a phishing attack is like. Rather than seeing an example email in a training environment, the phishing simulation will be sent to their actual inbox. By seeing a phishing email when they are not consciously expecting to, will ensure that users know what indicators to look out for.
From an admin’s perspective, deploying simulation is useful as you can easily see how effective security awarneess training is. Individuals who fail the test can easily be identified, and tasked with completing further training modules until they pass.
The training itself is often very simple, with short, targeted modules to keep users engaged. This type of training has very real and useful benefits. For the sake of a couple of hours training per year, you can greatly decrease the potency and effectiveness of any real phishing campaigns that do make it to your inbox.
What Are The Different Types Of Phishing?
Phishing is an umbrella term for these speculative cyber-attacks that attempt to make a user perform a specific action. Today, there are an increasing variety of phishing attack types, each with its own target or method.
Vishing – Vishing is an amalgamation of Voice Phishing and refers to phishing attacks that use calls or VoiceNotes to carry out the attack. In this case, we might be more easily convinced as we are not expecting a phishing attack to be carried out in this way.
Whaling – Rather than a method of phishing, Whaling refers to the target. Namely, someone big and important in an organization, such as a CEO or board member. Instead of using a scatter gun approach, this method will be more specific and may impersonate real employees. This attack is more convincing as spoofed domains and other fraudulent material may be used to make the attempt more realistic.
Spear Phishing – This attack is like Whaling but can be targeted at a less senior individual. Again, these attacks can be very specific to give the greatest chance of fooling an employee. Again, impersonation may be used to make the attempt more convincing.
What Is Phishing Simulation?
Phishing simulation is when a suspicious email is sent out to test how susceptible employees are to falling victim to a phishing message. Rather than this test mail actually containing malware or a fraudulent link, a notification will pop up, revealing that the user has been tricked. Their response will be logged and passed onto a network administrator. From there, the admin can decide if the user should undertake further training.
Phishing simulations often use templates from genuine phishing attacks. This makes the training more realistic, ensuring that admin can understand a user’s authentic response. Ideally, when a phishing simulation message is sent out, users will be naturally suspicious and either report the message or delete it. This will suggest that when faced with a genuine phishing attempt, the user will be cautious, and not fall victim to it.
Phishing attackers are ever evolving, so it’s important that your phishing simulation adapts too. The latest attack methods, like voice phishing (vishing), should be taken into account. A good phishing simulation solution will be able to distribute a range of realistic phishing messages and collect the response. Your solution should also be able to automate the frequency of phishing simulation tests to ensure the users are always ready to respond appropriately.
How Do Email Phishing Tools Work?
Phishing email tools work by scanning emails for “tell-tale” signs that they are malicious. This could be an email address that uses a special character to make an email look like it is from a reputable brand. For instance, the letter “o” might be replaced by the number “0”. In a URL, this will take you to a completely different site, but to the average reader it will appear valid.
Email phishing tools will monitor mail for a range of these indicators, using an ever-expanding database of known phishing threats and templates. If detected, the tool can block an email from being delivered, or attach a warning notification instructing the user to exercise caution.
Many email phishing tools will also install a button within your email application that allows you to report suspicious mail. This can then be flagged to admin users, who can investigate the message. Some solutions will remove phishing mail even after it has been delivered to your inbox if another user reports it as suspicious.
Email phishing solutions often include additional features to detect and remediate phishing attempts.
- URL scanning – this assesses URLs at the moment that users click on them to ensure that the link is not malicious
- AI analysis – this allows the tool to detect new phishing attempts that cannot be identified from the database
- Header analysis – ability to assess an email’s metadata to understand its provenance and risk likelihood
- Compliance – many solutions will align with regulatory frameworks, and produce audit reports to prove compliance