Phishing Training For Employees: Everything You Need To Know

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Phishing Training For Employees: Everything You Need To Know

The increasing dependency on technology from accessing information at your fingertips, smart home automation, digital banking, online e-commerce, the Internet of Things, and more, makes cybersecurity the need of the hour. Globally cybercrimes are expected to rise by 15 percent over the next few years and cost businesses $10.5 trillion in losses annually by 2025.

Among the five most common cyberattacks to wreak havoc in 2021, phishing (pronounced fishing) was considered a highly popular cybercrime, given its effectiveness. According to a 2021 Cybersecurity Threat Trends Report by CISCO, nearly 90% of data breaches can be attributed to phishing and 80% of reported security breaches that year were on account of phishing attacks.

Phishing involves the sending of fraudulent communications seemingly from a reliable source. It is mostly done through email to steal the victim’s money, identity, etc., by getting them to reveal sensitive information like credit card details, passwords, or bank information. At times, it is also used to install malware on the victim’s device.

IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Report 2021 estimated the costs to organizations from breaches due to phishing at approximately 4.65 million USD. The FBI reports a 400% year-on-year increase in phishing attacks. What’s concerning is that over 90% of these attacks on organizations happen through email.

Therefore, both big and small organizations must conduct phishing training for employees and create phishing security awareness.


Training Employees To Think Before They Click

Organizations need to understand that while their employees are their assets, they’re also their biggest vulnerability when it comes to recognizing and reporting phishing attempts. But before your employees can do that, they need to be made aware of phishing. With over 90,000 phishing campaigns being launched every month, phishing training for employees is the need of the hour.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) or in-house IT managers charged with protecting their clients and companies' businesses would agree that no amount of technical measures is 100% effective in blocking phishing attacks. Phishing awareness across all levels of the organization will instead be more effective in preventing phishing attacks.

Phishing security awareness training involves educating employees and empowering them to spot and report questionable or dubious emails with malicious intent. Awareness is the best form of defense, and it involves knowing what to look for.

Getting Started

User education is key to protecting your organization or business from phishing. Depending on the number of employees in the organization, the initial phishing training for employees can be started with the help of a written document, online video, classroom training, or departmental meetings.

It’s important to include employees at all levels of the organization, including the high-level or senior management, as they are often the target. Employees should be trained to recognize phishing emails and the expected course of action should they receive one. Simulation exercises can be used to assess how they react to a staged phishing attack.


Risk Mitigation and Prevention

While there are several phishing techniques that hackers use, organizations and employees should be aware of the following:

Phishing is a Crime

Phishing often starts with fraudulent communication, usually via email or SMS, and is intended to lure the victim by impersonating a brand, the Microsoft 365 phishing attack being a famous example. Since it can have negative repercussions, any suspected phishing attempt should be immediately brought to the attention of the concerned department or personnel.

Penalties vary depending on the severity of the offense, and whether the hacker has a criminal history. If found guilty, they can be looking at serving a prison sentence, fines, or probation.

Phishing Emails Are Getting More Sophisticated

With technology improving by leaps and bounds, hackers aren’t far behind when it comes to the resources at their disposal. From composing clean emails in the language of their target victim and phishing emails with minute errors to support networks, they have everything it takes to disguise emails and do it well.

Employees will therefore need to read emails from external sources very carefully. They should also be instructed to look out for glaring grammatical and style issues during sessions on phishing training for employees that indicate the sender is not who they pretend to be.

Phishing Messages Can Contain Real Brand Images And Logos

Trademarks and logos do not guarantee that an email is authentic. One must remember that these are public information and can be easily downloaded or replicated. Hackers don’t stop at that. At times phishing emails may also contain antivirus badges to cement their legitimacy. Also, phishing URLs can be hidden in plain sight in QR codes or as malicious text on images.
Most times, a discerning eye is all that’s needed to spot the minute, telltale signs in a logo or a trademark that identify it as a phishing email.

Links May Not Always Be What They Seem

All phishing emails typically contain a link, but they are deceptive and designed to take users to a page that looks almost like the real one. Also, beware of URLs ending with alternate domain names other than .com or .org., and be careful when clicking on shortened URLs.

It’s best to hover over any link in the email body to see what comes up. You can use IsItPhishing.AI to determine if an URL is legitimate or not.

Email Attachments Can Also Contain Phishing Links

We mentioned above that all phishing emails typically contain a link. But you need to be aware that they do not always have to be in the email body. Hackers have also started including such links in PDF or Word attachments to avoid detection.

Email Addresses Can Be Disguised

Email spoofing is a technique used in phishing attacks where an email is manipulated to appear as if it originates from a trusted source. The common types are display name spoofing and cousin domains. In the former, the hacker uses a legitimate company name to show as the email sender — support@microsoft.com but the email beneath is a random address like abc@gmail.com. It is most effective on mobile devices since the sender’s email address is hidden, and most email users rarely expand the sender’s name to view the address.

Phishing Emails Often Have Threatening or Enticing Subject Lines or Body Text

Creating a sense of urgency, panic, or curiosity is common in phishing emails since users are always quick to respond to such emails. Phishing emails almost always use an aggressive tone or require immediate action to be taken, a technique often used to scare people into giving out their confidential information. It will help if employees are shown samples of such emails during phishing security awareness training.

Phishing Attacks Are Now More Targeted and Personal

In the past, phishing emails were often impersonal since they were sent out in bulk and addressed users with generic terms. However, using advanced technology, hackers today launch targeted attacks using the individual or business’s name in the subject line.  They also use automation tools to pre-fill victims’ email addresses on the phishing webpage or load a company’s logo on the Microsoft 365 page, for example.

Cousin domains are slight alterations of legitimate email addresses. For example, a hacker might use Apple.co to spoof an Apple.com email, or use extensions like apple-support.net. Many phishing emails also resort to using lengthy and confusing subdomains.

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What Employees Can Do To Be Safe Than Sorry

Prevention is always better than cure. Now that your team knows what to look out for in phishing emails, they can also take the following protective measures to ensure they secure the integrity of the organization’s data. Employees should:

  • Remember that emails from legitimate businesses will never ask for your personal information, including usernames and passwords.
  • Not click on any links in an unsolicited email or text. Better still, refrain from opening such emails or text messages. Alternatively, look up the said company’s contact information online and call them to verify the legitimacy of any request.
  • Carefully examine the email address by hovering over it, the URL, the spellings in the body text, and the logo or brand image if any. On careful observation, you will be able to notice slight differences that might not otherwise be obvious.
  • Be aware of what you download and wary of opening attachments you receive from unknown sources.
  • Remember to set up multi-factor authentication wherever possible and do not ever disable it.
  • Be careful about the information shared online, especially on social media platforms. People tend to share a lot of personal information on social media, from kids’ names and pet’s names, to birthdays and everything else. They don’t realize that they’re giving scammers all the information they need to figure out passwords or answer your security questions.


What To Do If You’ve Been Phished

If an employee has fallen prey to a phishing attack, here are a few things you can get them to do immediately:

  1. Ask them to note down as many details they can recall while the incident is still fresh in their mind. Useful details could be usernames, passwords, or account information they may have inadvertently given out.
  2. Change passwords on the affected accounts immediately and any other application where they may have used the same password. New passwords should be unique and strong.
  3. Ensure multi-factor authentication is turned on for every account where possible.
  4. If credit card or bank account information has been shared, ensure that the respective service providers are informed too.
  5. Phishing attacks leading to loss of money or identity theft need to be reported to local law enforcement.


Security Is A Shared Responsibility

Phishing attacks are becoming increasingly common, but dealing with the repercussions from one can be both costly and time-consuming for brands and businesses.Even if you have the most sophisticated security systems, one careless click or untrained employee is all it takes to compromise your network and compromise  valuable data.

As mentioned before, any cybersecurity technology cannot completely prevent phishing attacks. Rather than focusing only on technology, companies should instead take a layered approach to mitigate phishing attacks or their impact if ever they do occur. Malware protection, web and email security, user behavior monitoring, access control, etc., are technologies that companies can look at implementing.

In addition, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and in-house IT managers can also implement the following measures for preventing phishing attacks.

  • Make phishing training for employees an ongoing commitment. Having structured quarterly, half-yearly, or annual phishing security awareness is good, but it’s definitely not enough. Ensure employees are also tested periodically, at arbitrary intervals.
  • Experience is the best teacher, and simulated exercises can give employees the experience required to identify potentially “phishy” messages. Any employee found clicking on a phishing link should be given immediate feedback on how they may have put themselves and the organization at risk. They should also be given additional
    phishing training.
  • Ensure you have a system in place to report any instance of phishing and that all your employees understand why it is important to report even a single incident.
  • Keep monitoring the results of your phishing training for employees and improve on it. Also, analyze the results to understand which types of attacks were successful and the teams most vulnerable to them. Plug any loopholes you may find, and add additional defenses wherever possible.


Secure Your Data With Help From The Experts

TitanHQ’s SafeTitan Security Awareness Training includes both phishing awareness training and simulated tests. Our phishing awareness training program is designed to improve employee resilience and awareness through entertaining, engaging, and interactive content seamlessly and easily.

We also use authentic phishing emails in a protected or simulated environment to give your employees an improved perspective on the effectiveness of our phishing training program. More often than not, staff can’t tell a phishing email from a legitimate one. However, concerns such as this are addressable through our world-class security awareness training.
Be safe, not sorry. If you feel the need to empower your team with security awareness, contact TitanHQ. Our elite cyber experts will be happy to help you and your team learn how to protect your brand and secure your assets. Alternatively, sign up for a demo to learn more!

Sign up for a FREE Demo of SafeTitan to learn how it works to train employees and protect your business in preventing phishing attacks.

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