HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development, Technology

How to Use a Phishing Simulation to Train Employees

Cybercrime is at an all-time high, leaving companies, government agencies, and consumers at risk of severe data breaches. Data suggests phishing emails account for 91% of all cyberattacks. Despite efforts to mitigate these scams with advanced security measures, phishing tactics have become highly sophisticated and far more capable of penetrating internal systems.

phishing simulation training

Many companies are responding proactively, investing in phishing simulation software to train employees on cybercrime. More often than not, human error enables successful phishing attempts. This article will walk you through what a phishing simulation is, its benefits in preventing cyberattacks, and how companies can run security awareness training to protect their businesses.

What Is a Phishing Simulation?

A phishing simulation is a program that educates users on how to recognize phishing emails and respond effectively. Training topics may include cybersecurity and protecting sensitive data from email scams.

Depending on the phishing simulation program, employees must complete numerous readings and video content, completing quizzes to demonstrate their learning. Some software delivers gamification exercises for users to apply what they learned in a real-life scenario.

For instance, employers could send suspicious emails to test whether employees can identify and report them correctly. These emails might comprise poor spelling and grammar or fake links and attachments. Users should check for matching IP addresses or look for modified link characters that make URLs look legitimate.

5 Pros of Using a Phishing Simulation

Using a phishing simulation at work prepares the staff to handle suspicious emails properly. Here are five ways security training better protects your business from phishing scams.

1. Raise Awareness of Potential Threats

Cyberattackers are finding new ways to commit cybercrime, adapting new methods of creating and sending phishing emails. For instance, 48% of cybercriminals use compromised account credentials to read and communicate in email threads. Another 48% use ambiguous language and spelling to hide the threat. Still others use current events to lend a sense of urgency to their emails; in 2021 alone, there were an estimated 18 million scam emails daily referring to COVID-19. Employees who undergo a phishing simulation have a better awareness of honest communication versus email scams and how to respond to a cyberattack via company procedure.

2. Prevent Data Breaches

Phishing simulations also help protect valuable company data from breaches, which is most imperative within government agencies. Approximately 50% of phishing emails targeted government employees in 2021—up 30% from 2020 to 2021.

Cyberattacks in government systems threaten national security, heighten fraudulent unemployment claims, and expose confidential information to players with malicious intent. The more security training workers receive, the better your chance of preventing data breaches.

3. Protect Assets

One of the most critical outcomes of successful phishing attacks is the loss of assets. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2021 Intenet Crime Report, there were over $6.9 billion in potential losses due to phishing email schemes, ransomware, and cryptocurrency crimes.

In fact, cybercrimes involving cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin were especially prevalent, with a seven-fold increase in financial losses of over $1.6 billion. Protecting your assets from phishing attacks is critical for your bottom line. Therefore, a phishing simulation at work reduces the conceivable financial burden of cybercrime.

4. Target Security Training

Most employees find security training straightforward and mundane. Others might find it challenging to identify a threat. Running a phishing test in the workplace helps CEOs target specific team members who may need extra cybersecurity training. Additional training better ensures workers recognize the signs and avoid navigating phishing schemes independently.

Keep in mind that the workplace comprises diverse learners, meaning it’s critical to provide different learning modes to drive home the importance of cybersecurity. Maintaining a multi-media library of cybersecurity content is ideal for letting employees choose the method they learn from best.

The ability to sync desktop and mobile cybersecurity training allows the staff to complete the modules and phishing simulation remotely, syncing their progress once they’ve reconnected to the company’s Wi-Fi. Additionally, ensure the training modules are short and delivered continuously in parts over time, so employees retain the most vital information.

5. Ensure Security Compliance for Insurance

Cybersecurity insurance is becoming more expensive and harder to acquire. Cyber insurance premiums increased by 28% from the fourth quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022.

Many insurers now require companies to have multiple cybersecurity measures—such as multi-factor authentication and automatic software updates—before insuring them. Implementing workplace cybersecurity education has also become a standard requirement for companies to obtain cybersecurity insurance. Using a phishing simulation to train employees gives a company a better chance of eligibility.

Conducting a Phishing Simulation Test

An effective phishing simulation tests workers’ aptitude for identifying a potential threat. Notify and train your team members beforehand to spot phishing schemes and create a separate email address for reporting suspicious messages.

The best way to determine progress and success is to conduct a phishing simulation quarterly. The first email you send should be simple enough to identify the threat, followed by more challenging simulations that utilize sophisticated hacker mechanisms afterward.

Some phishing simulation emails might ask employees to update their passwords or click on a specific link. To make the emails seem more legitimate, tell department heads and managers you’ll send a phishing test from their email addresses.

After running the phishing simulation, document your findings, such as:

  • The number of times people clicked on links.
  • How many employees are apt to leak sensitive data by providing a username and password.
  • The number of employees who correctly identified and reported phishing attacks.

Send a mass email to staff members thanking them for their participation and presenting the discoveries. You can also send a private email to let those who passed the test know they did a great job.

Optimize Online Security With Proper Employee Training

Train workers with a phishing simulation to protect your company’s data and assets from cybercrime. Employees that are well-informed about potential phishing attacks are best prepared to respond to attacks effectively.

Zac Amos covers ransomware, phishing, and other cybersecurity trends and is the Features Editor at ReHack. You can find more of his work by following him on Twitter or LinkedIn.