What is Phishing Awareness Training?
Phishing awareness training is a type of security awareness training designed to teach employees how to detect phishing emails.
The training programs combine written content, videos, infographics, and phishing simulations to show employees the techniques that threat actors use to launch phishing, social engineering, and spear phishing attacks.
How Phishing Awareness Training Works
Phishing awareness training is built around phishing simulation exercises. In a phishing simulation, the IT or security team will send employees fake phishing emails and measure their click rate.
Suppose a user’s detection rate for these simulated phishing emails falls below a certain threshold. In that case, they can be notified and provided with just-in-time training materials to help them detect scam emails more consistently.
Training materials can include:
- Written content and guides
- Short videos of less than 5 minutes
- Instructor-led training
For example, a written guide could be something as simple as “5 ways to spot a phishing email,” “5 examples of phishing emails that were successful,” or “How to report a phishing email.”
Phishing simulations also provide a baseline measure of employee awareness, which the organization can attempt to improve over time and assess the effectiveness of existing training materials. It also provides a way to identify and support high-risk employees.
Why is Phishing Awareness Training Important?
Phishing awareness training is essential because it teaches employees how to respond to one of the most common types of cyberattacks, which account for 36% of all U.S. data breaches.
At the same time, as commercial generative AI tools like ChatGPT become increasingly popular, as well as dark AI solutions like WormGPT and FraudGPT, organizations need to be prepared to address a threat landscape filled with more and more convincing and well-written scam emails.
In this environment, the reality is that it only takes one well-written email to trick an employee into downloading a malware attachment or visiting a phishing website to start a data breach that can cost millions.
Phishing awareness training offers organizations a way to address these threats by helping to mitigate human error and giving employees the knowledge they need to detect these scams.
Giving employees exercises like phishing simulations that test their practical knowledge of email-based scams and supplementary training materials reduces the chance of them clicking on a malicious link or attachment in the future.
DIY or Phishing Awareness Training Provider?
When building a phishing awareness program, organizations can choose between in-house training materials or a prebuilt program created by a third-party vendor (typically part of an all-in-one platform).
Designing a program in-house gives an organization more control over how the training materials are structured and branded, but it takes significant time to achieve.
In contrast, working with a third-party vendor can provide access to a prebuilt library of training materials, which can be customized, as well as features like dashboards and reports, which enable managers to monitor employee performance over time.
Working with a third-party provider is advantageous if an organization wants to quickly build an awareness program with existing training materials, phishing templates, or more advanced features like prebuilt automated tests and reports.
It’s worth noting that some providers also allow organizations to use custom branding for their training materials.
What Best Practices Should Phishing Awareness Training Teach?
When building a phishing awareness program, some best practices should be covered as part of your training materials. Some of these are as follows:
- Never click on links or attachments in emails from unknown users;
- Watch out for high-pressure language in emails that try to rush you into action;
- Double-check for suspicious URLs in incoming emails;
- Configure anti-spam filters on email accounts to filter out phishing scams.
- Report phishing emails to the IT team;
- Select solid passwords on online accounts;
- Enable multi-factor authentication on online accounts to add an extra step to the verification process;
- Keep hardware and applications up-to-date with the latest security patches so they’re less vulnerable to exploitation;
- Install antivirus and antimalware tools on end-user devices to reduce the chance of malware infections.
Performing each of these actions together can help significantly reduce an employee’s exposure to threat actors and make them a harder target to exploit.
How to maintain engagement for phishing awareness training
Employee engagement is one of the most significant challenges when implementing phishing awareness training. After all, if employees don’t engage with the training materials, their knowledge isn’t going to improve.
Organizations can try to maximize engagement by taking some simple steps:
- Explain why phishing awareness is essential: One way to increase employee engagement is to simply explain how phishing awareness training can help them to better protect your organization and their personal online accounts.
- Offer incentives and rewards: You can create a phishing awareness leaderboard and offer employees rewards, such as a gift or gift card, vouchers, or time off for reaching a certain threshold.
- Use engaging training materials: Using simple and engaging training materials like videos and infographics can make training materials easier for employees to digest.
- Provide certification: Offering employees a certificate for passing a phishing simulation can help show that you recognize their progress and value their participation.
Phishing Awareness is Security Awareness
Phishing awareness is an essential component of modern cybersecurity. Most of the time, if an attacker wants to gain access to an environment, they’ll resort to low-risk, high-reward techniques like phishing and social engineering scams.
By giving your employees the tools they need to detect these threats, you’ll force many hackers to simply move on to an easier target.