Phishing awareness training is continued training given to employees to help them spot a phishing attack and take preventive measures when targeted.
Worldwide, phishing attacks are one of the most pervasive and dangerous cyber threats affecting organizations. The rise of remote working has given scammers newer opportunities to lure people into clicking on malicious links and sharing vital personal info.
According to an annual report by Cofense, a leading phishing detection provider, a malicious email bypassed a customer’s email protection solution every 2 minutes in 2022.
In another study by Tessian, it was found that 1 in 4 employees has clicked on a phishing link, and nearly 43% of employees admitted to making a mistake at work that had security implications for their company.
Statistics like these make it all the more necessary for businesses to invest in a successful cybersecurity strategy that prepares employees to detect different forms of phishing attacks and avoid costly data breaches.
How to train employees on phishing prevention
Phishing awareness training is a continual training process given to employees to make them knowledgeable about phishing threats and help them recognize one before it affects their organization.
A successful phishing awareness training involves educating staff on phishing threats and then testing their skills with phishing simulations to strengthen their understanding of phishing, allowing them to spot red flags and take necessary action.
The most common techniques used to train employees are classroom-based training, computer-based training, and simulated phishing exercises.
This is a traditional form of training where businesses use in-person training sessions to inform and educate their employees about phishing attacks.
While classroom courses can be customized and incorporate that human touch, they have several disadvantages:
- They’re expensive, as you need a specialized instructor to conduct classes.
- They can be time-consuming, as employees have to be present in person.
- They can lead to information overload, limiting retention of information.
Computer-based training (CBT)
Computer-based training (CBT) is a more popular approach to training employees, in which employees get training on phishing awareness through an eLearning method. The training is delivered over the internet through a learning management system (LMS).
The benefit of this approach is that it’s quick, engaging, and can be completed by the user at their own pace.
Other benefits of computer-based training are:
- It’s flexible, as the course material can be accessed from anywhere.
- Employees can pursue the course at their own convenience.
- It’s ideal for a remote or telecommuting workforce.
Simulated phishing exercises
A simulated phishing exercise provides personnel with a hands-on educational experience with phishing attacks to arm them against real future attacks.
In this method, a well-crafted phishing email is sent to members of an organization, and their responses are noted. Those employees who fail the test are given additional training sessions and provided with meaningful feedback.
The benefits of simulated phishing exercises are:
- They provide valuable insights into user response to cyber threats.
- They help companies identify those who are prone to fall victim to phishing attacks.
- Hands-on learning tends to improve overall retention of learning.
What’s the best way to train employees on phishing attacks?
Overall, the best approach to training your employees about the risks of phishing attacks is a combination of the above methods. In today’s business world, classroom-based training may not be feasible for many employees, but CBT and simulated exercises more than make up for it, and have the added benefit of being available to be done on the employee’s schedule and updated annually.
Top employee phishing awareness training tools
There are a variety of phishing training tools available to add to your organization’s LMS—but they’re not all created equal. Here are some of the best anti-phishing training tools for your employees.
IRONSCALES Phishing Simulation Testing & Training
IRONSCALES is a leading cloud security company that protects over 10,000 organizations worldwide from phishing threats. IRONSCALES harnesses the power of AI and machine learning (ML) to neutralize phishing attacks.
For their Phishing Simulation Testing & Training program, IRONSCALES utilizes current and realistic simulations to train teams in the proper handling of sophisticated phishing, business email compromise (BEC), and ransomware threats.
Their comprehensive training plan provides employees with a wide range of training videos on cybersecurity categories and allows them to track and score their progress. The videos also provide information on various industry compliance requirements like HIPAA, GDPR, PCI, and PII.
IT teams and admins can measure outcomes and track user engagement through detailed reporting, allowing them to identify those who may need further security education.
- Large library of real-life security situations.
- One-click-campaigns to launch programs with ease.
- Real-time user feedback.
- Intuitive user interface.
- Easy integration with cloud email solutions.
- Limited free option available.
- Simulation options require manual configuring.
A basic, “Starter” version of IRONSCALES’ anti-phishing training is available for free for any organization, up to 500 mailboxes. It provides up to 12 training campaigns per year with basic training content.
You can also bundle IRONSCALES’ email protection services with the training for a robust email security solution. These packages start at $6.00 per mailbox per month for the Email Protect Pack, and $8.33 per mailbox per month for the Complete Protect Pack.
Finally, larger enterprises with more than 500 mailboxes—or any government or education organization—can reach out to IRONSCALES for special volume discounts and custom licensing.
ESET Cybersecurity Awareness Training
ESET is a leading cybersecurity provider that offers specially designed training to employees to improve their understanding of cybersecurity and help them adhere to compliance requirements.
The training awareness program includes phishing simulators, gamified quizzes, interactive sessions, and real-time reporting capabilities to make the learning process as effective as possible.
Companies can also customize these activities, allowing users to complete them on-demand at their pace.
- Simulated phishing campaigns can be easily set up by using pre-built templates.
- User-friendly dashboard to track course progress.
- Suitable for companies of all sizes.
- Easy to configure.
- It is slightly more expensive than other solutions that offer more options.
- Support could be improved.
ESET training is available in both Basic and Premium forms.
The basic cybersecurity training module is free of cost and is 60 minutes in duration. It includes basic cybersecurity training and best practices for remote employees.
The Premium version, which we recommend for anti-phishing training, includes gamified content, phishing simulators, reporting dashboard, automatic email reminders, certifications, and LinkedIn badges. Pricing begins at $250 for 10 users.
KnowBe4 Security Awareness Training
KnowBe4 is an extremely popular and well-loved company providing a variety of training tools. The company’s Security Awareness Training program is an all-inclusive security training product comprising baseline testing, interactive modules, games, compliance training, and simulated phishing tests to train employees in detecting phishing attacks and building a more secure organization.
Powered by machine learning, KnowBe4 not only trains your users in the latest cybersecurity threats, it also helps your organization stay compliant with industry standards such as SOX, HIPAA, GLBA PCI, and FFIEC.
- Baseline testing to measure the phish-prone percentage of your users through simulated phishing attacks.
- An extensive library of cybersecurity literature like games, videos, and interactive modules to train users.
- Automated simulated phishing attacks with thousands of templates.
- Advanced reporting features to get an accurate view of users’ training progress.
- Easy-to-use interface.
- Content library with over 5,000 examples in dozens of languages.
- Virtual Risk Officer feature to identify risks to organizations and users.
- Management console is dated.
- Limited third-party integrations.
- Some modules are too lengthy to hold users’ attention.
- Users have reported overly punitive messaging, which may conflict with some organizations’ gentler approaches to compliance encouragement.
KnowBe4 offers a wide range of options so organizations can tailor their solutions directly to their size and needs.
Organizations can choose from Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond levels, each of which are priced by number of seats. You can also purchase add-ons to further bolster your email security and compliance stack.
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Is phishing training effective?
Yes—while employee awareness training is not going to prevent all security incidents from happening, it does help users become more aware and teaches them to better avoid clicking on phishing links.
This is evident in the 2022 Phishing by Industry Benchmarking Report by KnowBe4. KnowBe4 analyzed “Phish-prone Percentage” (PPP) across 9.5 million users pulled from their customer base.
The results show that the average PPP was 37.9%, but after 90 days of phishing testing, the PPP rate was reduced by over 60 percent to 14.1%. And 12 months later, the PPP declined to just 5%.
This research reinforces the knowledge that regular employee phishing training and simulated phishing testing are crucial to protect organizations against evolving cyberattacks.
Phishing facts your employees should know
- Office files like .xlsx, docx, and .doc remain the top file extensions on phishing email attachments.
- Phishing attacks reached an all-time high in 2022, as reported in APWG’s Phishing Activity Trends Report, 3rd Quarter 2022.
- Using a Secure Email Gateway (SEG) doesn’t guarantee protection against phishing attacks.
- Loaders are now the most favored attack method, followed by keyloggers.
- 67.4% of scammers leave the subject line empty, according to Expel’s Quarterly Threat Report for Q1 2022. Other common subject lines include “Re: Request” (2%), “Meeting” (4.07%), and “You have (1*) New Voice Message” (3.46%).
- Nearly 45% of employees open emails they consider suspicious.
- 1 in 8 employees are expected to share information with scammers.
Bottom line: Protecting your organization with phishing awareness training
Altogether, phishers count on the lack of knowledge among people about phishing and use it to advance their nefarious designs. Educating employees on phishing and cybersecurity measures helps them safeguard company assets and prevents them from making mistakes that can turn into significant security breaches.
While no amount of training can prevent 100% of phishing attacks, the research shows that effectively preparing your employees for how to spot phishing scams does make a considerable impact.
Here are eight more tips on how to prevent phishing attacks at your organization.