Phishing tests: What they are and why your organization needs them

Phishing tests: What they are and why your organization needs them

Phishing is one of the biggest cybersecurity threats that business organizations face today. In fact, Statistics Canada reports that more than one in three Canadians have experienced phishing attacks since the pandemic began. This tells us two things: that cybercriminals are unrelenting in their pursuit of lucrative exploits and that businesses may be more vulnerable to phishing than they think.

What is phishing, and why is it dangerous to your business?

Phishing is a specific type of cyberattack that targets individuals with the intent of defrauding them. In this kind attack, the phisher usually sends victims a legitimate-looking email from what seems to be a reputable organization. This email contains cleverly worded messages that can manipulate recipients into revealing sensitive personal information such as passwords, credit card information, or Social Insurance Numbers (SINs). Phishing is typically carried out via email, but SMS and voice calls are also commonly used.

A successful phishing attack poses several risks to your company. For instance, the login information that victims divulge to phishers may be used to infiltrate or take over your systems. Your employees’ stolen identities can also be used to transact with shady people or organizations and cause reputational damage.

Fortunately, you can safeguard your business by running phishing tests.

Related article: Please be aware of COVID-19 phishing attempts

Why are phishing tests so important to cybersecurity success?

To determine an organization’s level of vulnerability to phishing attacks, IT professionals can conduct phishing tests, where a mock phishing email or web page is sent to employees. These tests gauge your workforce’s preparedness for real-life phishing attacks by looking into whether or not employees could spot a phishing attempt and avoid clicking malicious links or leaking sensitive data, while also identifying which employees are highly susceptible to an email-based social engineering attack. Phishing tests not only allow your staff to experience phishing attacks firsthand without actual risk; these simulations also give them a chance to gain meaningful feedback and improve their security behavior.

By regularly undergoing phishing tests, your employees can better understand the different kinds of phishing attacks and will be less likely to be a victim of one. In turn, this can lower internal threat risks and improve your company’s overall cybersecurity posture.

Another advantage of conducting phishing tests is that it streamlines the process of reporting a real phishing scam. If your staff are used to dealing with malicious email, they become familiar with real-life risk mitigation protocols, such as to whom one should report a phishing attack and which channels to use for reporting suspicious emails.

How to conduct phishing tests

IT professionals use scientifically designed phishing test tools that can be customized to accommodate various phishing attack scenarios. There is a wide range of phishing test tools in the market, and you can always find one that will fit your budget, security experience, and business needs.

It’s important that you inform your workforce that you will conduct phishing tests in a controlled setting. Do not put your employees on the spot and highlight their negligent behavior. Instead, give a short training on the basics of phishing before conducting a phishing test. Incorporate topics on how to identify social engineering attacks and how to report one. Everyone, including C-level executives, should be part of phishing training sessions and tests, as this sends out a strong message that cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility.

To keep employees on their toes, your phishing tests should increase in difficulty. The first phishing attempt should be a basic phishing template — one that’s easy enough to recognize so that it boosts your staff’s morale and confidence. After that, you can try more devious schemes, such as asking your staff to update their password for the HR payroll software.

After every phishing test, analyse three critical metrics: how many users clicked on a malicious link, how many leaked sensitive data, and how many reported a phishing email. By keeping a record of this information, you can track and measure the success of your anti-phishing program. The good news is that most commercial phish test solutions provide all these metrics.

Over time, you want link click rates and data leak percentages to go down and phishing scam reporting to go up. To make this happen, provide additional training for low performers to help them achieve success. Also, praise or reward employees who do excellently in the tests to encourage them to keep performing well.

Conducting regular phishing tests is just one way your organization can mitigate internet-based risks. XBASE Technologies is a KnowBe4 reseller, and we can help you further protect your IT assets and maintain compliance. Learn more about how you can grow your business without worrying about your technology. Call us at 647-697-7710 or leave us a message.