In today's digital landscape, the threat of phishing attacks continues to rise, affecting organizations of all sizes. Cybercriminals are employing increasingly sophisticated methods, including the use of AI, to deceive individuals – and they are working. A recent ESG study, Tackling SaaS Communication and Collaboration Security Challenges, shows that despite increased investment in cybersecurity tools, phishing attacks (34%) and BEC scams (27%) remain the top threats that successfully circumvent existing security measures.
An organization's employees play a significant role in these security incidents. Cybercriminals specifically target the human element as it offers a convenient means of gaining unauthorized access to sensitive information, with phishing being one of their primary tactics. In fact, according to the 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 74% of breaches involved a human element.
As organizations strive to bolster their cybersecurity defenses, it’s important to recognize that technology alone can only prevent so much. An additional human layer is needed on top of advanced detection tools, and training users to recognize and report phishing attempts has emerged as a crucial line of defense. According to our own data, there is a direct correlation between active and consistent user training and the number of reported suspicious emails end-users can detect and report. To build a robust defense against phishing attacks, it is critical to develop the security awareness of all employees as part of a layered security strategy.
The Power of User Training
While technology solutions like spam filters, antivirus software, and web filters are effective in blocking a substantial number of threats, some still manage to bypass these defenses and reach employees. Unfortunately, many organizations still overlook the importance of investing in security awareness training and intervention, despite it being just as crucial as deploying technological safeguards.
By investing in comprehensive user training programs, organizations can empower their employees to become the last line of defense against phishing attacks. Educating users about the latest phishing attacks and methods, such as suspicious URLs, QR code embeds, and urgent requests for personal information, equips them with the knowledge to identify potential threats.
Phishing simulation is one effective tool that organizations can deploy to gauge their employees' susceptibility to phishing attacks. These simulated emails mimic real-life phishing attempts, training employees to recognize and respond appropriately to potential threats. While reducing click rates on simulated phishing emails is important, it is equally vital to prioritize the reporting of suspicious emails.
However, training alone is not enough. Building a culture of vigilance, where employees are encouraged – or even rewarded – to report any suspicious emails they encounter, plays a pivotal role in strengthening the organization's security posture.
The Correlation Between User Training and Reporting
Our own internal analysis has shed light on the correlation between user training and the number of reported suspicious emails. The numbers speak for themselves: organizations that run only one to five phishing simulation campaigns per year have an average report rate of approximately seven percent (7%). However, when the frequency of simulation campaigns is increased to more than 21 per year, the report rates increase dramatically to almost 21% – three times higher than the lower frequency.
Source: IRONSCALES, 2023©
These statistics highlight the direct relationship between user training and the likelihood of employees reporting suspicious emails. When employees are consistently exposed to simulated phishing attempts, their ability to differentiate between legitimate and fraudulent emails improves significantly. The more practice they have in spotting phishing indicators, the more confident they become in reporting potential threats to their organization's security team.
By encouraging users to report suspicious emails, organizations also gain valuable resources in their battle against phishing. Reported emails can be automatically investigated and remediated using advanced security tools, which can analyze the emails, extract relevant information, and determine whether they pose a legitimate threat. The ability to automatically respond to these reported emails allows organizations to swiftly identify potential security breaches, neutralize threats, and limit the potential damage caused by phishing attacks.
Cultivating a Culture of Vigilance
While the importance of reducing click rates on simulated phishing emails cannot be disregarded, it is paramount to also foster a culture of vigilance within the organization. By adopting a "see something, say something" approach, organizations can encourage employees to be proactive in reporting suspicious emails. This cultural shift reinforces the notion that every individual has a role to play in protecting their organization's security.
Organizations should create channels that make it easy for employees to report potential phishing attempts. Implementing dedicated email addresses or reporting portals ensures that employees can quickly and conveniently share their concerns. Additionally, organizations should emphasize the importance of reporting, reward employees for their vigilance, and provide feedback on reported emails to reinforce the desired behavior.
The Human Defense
The importance of training in preventing phishing attacks cannot be overstated.
Training users to detect and report phishing attempts is a vital component of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. The correlation between user training and the number of reported suspicious emails is clear – the more employees are trained, the more likely they are to report potential threats and further protect your organization from phishing attacks.
By providing comprehensive training programs that educate employees about the dangers of phishing and how to identify and respond to suspicious emails, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these malicious attacks. Such training empowers employees to become part of the solution and play a role in protecting the organization.
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