As a business owner, you can teach employees all day long with tech guides or links to YouTube videos, but nothing educates an individual quite like submerging them in the reality of a dangerous situation. That’s the aim of a phishing simulation, to expose employees to a realistic scenario where they can learn from their mistakes and become better prepared for any possible threats in the future.

Of course, phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending fraudulent emails that appear to be from some sort of reputable company or person, written with a level of conviction that persuades the recipient to share their personal information, click a helpful link, and ultimately reveal things like passwords and  credit card numbers. These simulations can be set up as internal campaigns of preparedness within an organization, with the sole purpose of equipping your team with the knowledge they need to avoid harmful phishing emails, thereby protecting themselves and your business assets.

Why do these simulations seem so real?

More than half the world uses email, and recent studies by the Radicati Group suggest there will be more than 3.8 billion email users before the year-end. Needless to say, most of us have some idea of what an email looks like, the possible components that we will find within it, and what its communications capabilities are—but it’s also reasonable to say only a small percentage of folks truly recognize the telltale signs of a phishing email being sent to vulnerable devices and social media accounts.

Phishing simulation campaigns build and deliver emails that bear the same characteristics as honest emails; their intention is not to trick the end user into giving up their personal information—but rather, to educate the receiver on threats that real phishing poses, along with how to identify risks and remedies. Simulations should seem as though they originate both internally and externally from your organization and from sources which are both known and unknown.

What are the benefits of phishing simulations?

So, you have set up your simulation campaign, created emails and sent them out—now what? This is your real-time opportunity to gain insight into how well your team, who will be the receivers of your email, are capturing and reporting any phishing attempts. The exercise will also create a report highlighting the areas where your end-users could use some increased education and digital preparedness, essentially support you in aligning your simulations with the growing sophistication of authentic phishing attempts.

The implementation of these simulations within your organization can give you a significant security advantage, as your end-users quickly become phishing detection experts who can easily recognize and report suspicious emails, SMS messages, links, or attachments before any harmful and irreversible clicks are made. And before you know it, your team have reprogrammed their thinking to trust nothing and question everything.

Altered thinking will make individuals hyper-aware of everything security related, and it’s likely you will see a noticeable uptick in awareness. This type of simulation also supports positive changes to worker behaviour, including a reduction in shoddy passwords practices used across multiple applications, a more widely-adopted approach to clear-desk policies, and a more comprehensive understanding of intellectual property and procedures around the confidentiality of information—all of which are perfectly aligned with the new mandates of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

What’s the best way to set up this kind of exercise?

Phishing awareness is critical in the security of any business, and with fifth generation attacks dominating security-based conversations, our alertness of protective measures keeps has becoming increasingly important, especially in the way it keeps pace with the developments of hacks and attacks within the modern digital world.

Here are some considerations for building and implementing the most effective phishing simulation campaigns:

  • Define your strategy—make sure you understand your objectives, how you will gather your findings and the most appropriate way for your organization to communicate them.
  • Ensure that the sophistication of your Phishing Simulation Scenarios remains current with existing trends and technological advancements.
  • Tailor the scenarios to the department of the recipient, mimicking the type of real-life email they might receive.
  • Inform stakeholders of who will be notified of a Phishing test and when they will be taking place.
  • Cultivate a mixed bank of emails to minimize the probability of users sharing their findings with their peers.
  • Validate all email addresses before the simulation begins.
  • Involve your internal security team—making sure that you have an identified procedure for users who recognize Phishing and report it as genuine.
  • Communicate the results of the campaign to the users, management, and security while considering what else you might do and the frequency in which you might do it.
  • Congratulate users on the correct identification of attempts at Phishing and further educate on missed Phishing endeavors.

As a business owner, the people who work with you everyday are your principal vulnerability—and so it makes absolute sense to suitably arm your employees with confidence and knowledge through education. This learning will not only enable them to thwart phishing attacks, it will empower them to protect your best interests as well.


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An internationally published writer who specializes in cybersecurity, government issues, science, finance, technology, and education. With over 20 years of experience creating content for global leaders and SMEs, she brings a wealth of knowledge to areas of marketing, strategy, and business expansion, offering persuasive and compelling information for readers looking to learn and challenge the status-quo.

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