Phishing is the leading cause of data breaches that organizations around the world are currently facing. And because phishing attacks exploit human communication behaviors, the first step in defending your business against phishing is in making sure that your employees know that these attacks exist. Education is one of our best defenses against phishing, and the number of powerful phishing awareness training solutions out there is largely to thank for the decrease in click rates and increase in reporting rates in the last year.
Phishing awareness training solutions, sometimes also called “anti-phishing training”, train users how to identify and respond to sophisticated phishing attacks. They’re usually made up of two parts: content-based learning, and phishing simulators. First, they use engaging, interactive training methods—often involving bite-sized learning modules, gamification, and quizzes—to teach users how to spot phishing attempts. They then test the users’ knowledge by enabling admins to send them simulated phishing emails. This enables users to apply what they’ve learned, whilst allowing admins to monitor which users are most at risk of falling for a phishing attack, and assign further training as required.
In this article, we’ll explore the top ten phishing awareness training solutions and phishing simulators designed to transform employees into an additional layer of defense against social engineering attacks. These solutions offer a range of engaging, learner-focused training materials, which teach your employees how to identify and report suspicious activity; admin reporting, which allows you to see who has completed the training; and realistic simulations to drill your employees on what they’ve learned. We’ll give you some background information on the provider and the key features of each solution, as well as the type of customer that they are most suitable for.
What Is Phishing?
Traditionally, phishing emails targeted hundreds or even thousands of recipients at a time. They were designed to trick users into clicking on a URL that would lead to a webpage where they’d be asked to enter personal information. While these types of phishing attack still exist, cybercriminals have adapted their attacks, making malicious phishing messages harder for machines and humans to identify. These more targeted attacks are called “spear phishing”.
In a spear phishing attack, the attacker impersonates a trustworthy sender and aims to trick their victim into handing over sensitive information (such as account credentials or financial data). Alternatively, the user may be encouraged to click on a malicious link or file that will install malware on their device.
Both phishing and spear phishing attacks have key indicators that users can look out for to determine whether an email is genuine or fraudulent.
While phishing and spear phishing attacks sent via email are the most common type, there are a few other variants of phishing attacks to look out for:
- Vishing (Voice phishing) uses voice calls to trick users; these can be very convincing as the attackers can put pressure on their users in real-time to create a sense of urgency
- SMiShing is the same as phishing, except that the attacker sends their target an SMS text instead of an email
- Whaling targets high ranking, often C-level, members of an organization; these attacks take more effort on the attacker’s part, but the payoff can be much greater
What Is Phishing Training?
Phishing awareness training—also known as security awareness training (SAT), anti-phishing training, and sometimes phishing email training—teaches users how to identify and respond to different types of phishing attacks. As phishing attacks are constantly evolving, giving your users a list of phishing emails to avoid won’t help. Instead, you need to train them to be vigilant and naturally suspicious of emails that encourage them to act or share details. Phishing awareness training can help you create a culture of security that will encourage this cautious behavior.
Phishing awareness training solutions use content-based training (such as bite-sized videos, infographics, and quizzes) to explain common indicators of compromise (IOCs) and train users on what to look for. This means that when a user encounters a new attack type, they already have the skillset to identify a dangerous message and act accordingly.
Anti-phishing training also teaches users how much damage a successful phishing attack can cause. Without this, it can be hard to understand the significance of something as simple as clicking on a link. When users know what’s at risk, they are more likely to act cautiously.
The best phishing email training solutions also enable you to test your users’ response to a phishing attack by sending them phishing simulations.
What Is A Phishing Simulator And What Do Phishing Simulations Involve?
Phishing simulators, or simulations, are fake phishing emails that security teams send to their employees to test how they would respond to a real-life phishing attack. They’re usually included in a wider phishing awareness training program that also teaches users (via content-based training) how to identify a threat.
Phishing simulations enable users to apply the knowledge that they’ve gained whilst completing their anti-phishing training course. They also enable admins to identify any users that may be particularly susceptible to phishing attacks and assign those users further training.
Phishing simulation training usually focuses on email phishing and enables IT teams to either choose from a library of out-of-the-box templates or create their own emails that can be tailored to their users and use-case. Some simulators also enable IT teams to carry out SMiShing attacks, but this often comes at an extra cost.
Do You Need Phishing Training For Employees?
Phishing awareness training is critical for any organization, no matter how big or small you are or what sector you’re operating within. There are four key reasons why we recommend that you train your users on how to respond to phishing attacks:
- Reduce your risk of being breached. Social engineering attacks such as phishing are the most likely type of threat to cause a data breach. If you train your users to identify threats, they’ll be less likely to engage with them.
- Identify areas for improvement. Some individuals might require more training than others—either because they find it more difficult to identify phishing attacks, or because they’re working in an area of the business that handles particularly sensitive information, which means they’re more likely to be targeted. With a phishing awareness training solution, you can monitor how users are responding to phishing simulations and tailor training programs to suit each individual’s needs.
- Ensure compliance with data protection standards. Security awareness training, including phishing awareness training, is a mandatory requirement of many industry and federal compliance standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS.
- Create a culture of security. Investing in the right phishing awareness training program can show your users you want to help and support them, rather than punish them when they make mistakes. This can help you build a stronger relationship with them, so they’re more likely to come and tell you if they do receive or click on a phishing email, rather than panic and try to cover it up.