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How Simulated Phishing Attacks Work?

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How Simulated Phishing Attacks Work?

According to many reports, phishing is the most common way cyber-attacks begin. One such account is from Cisco, who, in their "2021 Cybersecurity Threat Trends Report," found that 90% of data breaches start with a phishing email. The report also points out that in 86% of organizations, at least one person clicked on a phishing link. 

Phishing simulation exercises train employees and other people to spot tell-tale signs that an email is a phishing email. Employees can prevent data breaches, malware infections, and social engineering attacks by understanding how phishing works and being trained to detect and respond to phishing attacks.

Here is how simulated phishing attacks work and how to make the most of this form of security awareness training.

What is a Simulated Phishing Attack?

During a simulated phishing attack, employees receive a phishing email. However, this phishing email is a test under the organization's control. The phishing simulation email, unlike real phishing emails, does not contain malware, and any links used in the simulation go to spoof sites under the control of the organization. 

The simulated phishing platform will track employees' interaction with phishing emails during the mock phishing exercise. 

Some advanced phishing simulators, like SafeTitan, will provide interactive training if an employee clicks on a simulated phishing link or attempts to download a simulated infected attachment. This learning event will help to change risky behaviors that end in breached networks.

Phishing simulation exercises are usually done with other security awareness training as a concerted effort to build security awareness, prevent cyber-attacks, and help develop a security culture. 

How do Simulated Phishing Attacks Work?

Advanced phishing simulation platforms are cloud-based. The administrator of the phishing simulations can be an in-house team or an MSP (managed service provider). The person(s) designing the phishing simulation exercises use available templates to create realistic-looking phishing emails. The simulator is cloud-based, so the training sessions can be configured, updated, and delivered centrally. A central console captures training data and generates reports.

Some phishing simulation emails may also be linked to a fake malicious website. If the employee clicks on the link, they will be taken to the fake website to show them what would happen if this was an actual phishing email.

Other types of spoof phishing emails may contain fake malicious attachments. Again, suppose the employee attempts to open or download this attachment. In that case, the simulator will use this as a training event and open an online screen explaining why this was risky behavior, what would have happened in real life, and how to prevent this behavior in the future.

During the simulation exercises, data is collected on how each employee responds to the phishing email. These data are used to provide insights to help modify, tailor, and improve phishing exercises.

SafeTitan Security Awareness Training provides simulated phishing emails to train users to spot phishing attempts. Book a free demo to see how it works.

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Five Best Practices for Simulated Phishing Attacks?

Five ways to improve the effectiveness of simulated phishing attacks are:

Reflect Real-life Phishing

Simulated phishing emails should be tailored to the type of threats your company or industry will likely experience. Anyone involved in designing a phishing simulation exercise must gather intelligence on any current phishing threats. By understanding the phishing email landscape, you can more closely mimic real-life phishing emails and provide a more realistic experience during training. In addition, enhance this by using roles-based phishing simulations that closely reflect how cybercriminals target specific roles in an organization, for example, an IT administrator, accounts payable, etc.

Use Phishing Templates

To help create tailored simulated phishing exercises, choose a simulated phishing platform that offers a range of phishing templates that you can modify to fit your needs. For example, SafeTitan provides 1000s of phishing templates. These templates will give you the flexibility to change training for roles, departments, and individuals. 

Use Carrots and Not Sticks

Create phishing simulation exercises that get the most out of your staff without causing them harm or upset. The stick rather than carrot approach often backfires. Instead of punishing employees who make mistakes, use ‘spot training’ to give these employees a more intensive education. To help in drilling down on an individual basis, build up the phishing training using increasingly subtle simulated phishing emails; this can help to tailor the training to the individual’s needs.

Gather Phishing Metrics

Administrators of the phishing simulation should gather phishing metrics as employees run through the exercises. For example, the phishing simulation tool should be able to collect data on clicks and training completions. These metrics' insights allow you to tailor phishing simulations to focus on specific training areas. These metrics can also help you to ensure that all employees are prepared for phishing attacks.

Carry Out Phishing Simulations Regularly

The importance of regular phishing simulations was explored in a USENIX study on the effectiveness of Security Awareness Training over time. The study found that employees' initial training lasted around four months, but after six months, employees were unable to spot phishing emails. In addition, fraudsters change their phishing techniques and tactics regularly. Therefore, phishing simulations must also be carried out regularly.

Four Benefits of Simulated Phishing Attacks

Simulated phishing platforms benefit an organization by teaching employees how to:

  • Identify phishing emails of all types
  • Break the click or download cycle to prevent data loss, credential theft, or malware infection
  • Recognize subtle signs that they are being socially engineered
  • Report phishing emails for triage and response by your IT team or MSP

SafeTitan simulated phishing training and simulations reduce susceptibility to phishing by up to 92%. This dramatically reduces the consequences of phishing, ensuring an organization is protected against ransomware, Business Email Compromise, and data breaches.

SafeTitan is a cloud-based, behavior-driven security awareness platform delivering real-time training. A real-time, cloud-based approach makes SafeTitan easily modifiable to ensure that the latest social engineering and phishing attacks are included in the training.

Training via SafeTitan is automated, providing in-learning responses to specific employee behaviors to change the risky behavior that scammers exploit. Additionally, automated simulated phishing attacks and regularly updated phishing templates are used to mimic attack patterns as they arise.

Get an easier phishing simulation solution with SafeTitan Awareness Training Program.

Book a free demo of SafeTitan to see how phishing simulations can train employees to recognize and prevent dangerous phishing attacks.

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