How To Train and Protect Your Employees From Future Phishing Attacks

Phishing is the second costliest attack vector when it comes to breaches, according to the IBM 2021 Cost of a Breach Report. That’s why so many program owners integrate simulated phishing attacks into their yearly security awareness training objectives. However, simulated phishes alone aren’t enough to properly train and prepare employees for future phishing attacks. 

In order to protect your organization from the repercussions of a phishing breach, you have to show your employees real examples of attacks, teach them best practices for identifying and avoiding scams, and also reinforce their newly learned security behaviors. 

Here are a few tips to help prepare your team for email phishing attacks and empower them to advocate for stronger company-wide security practices:


1. Change Your Team’s Perception of Security Awareness Training.

It’s not always easy to get your employees excited about security awareness training. In the past, your training may have pushed a culture of shame that demoralized and penalized employees for being tricked by phishing attempts. When employees live in fear of cyber attacks and are punished by leadership for their mistakes, they often become bitter about security at large and don’t feel responsible for strengthening it—since they are perceived as the weakest links anyway. They can often feel mistrusted by the company and reject learning about security altogether. 

In order to get your team excited about protecting your organization, you need to show them how important they are in preserving your security. That means shifting your users’ mindset to being proactive about spotting and reporting suspicious activity—and being excited to help—so your company doesn’t have to reactively educate post-attack. This starts with empowering your users with the resources they need to protect your org before a breach. Here are a few ways you can push a culture of deep understanding, not fear, around cybersecurity.


2. Run Interactive Training That Rewards and Engages.

Many security awareness videos are outdated, low-quality productions that bore viewers. When teams are already busy with work, they don’t have extra time to “waste” on irrelevant or disengaging security training.

Instead, companies that leverage experiential learning often see higher engagement and retention rates. Experiential learning immerses your team in a stimulating, active experience—oftentimes requiring them to participate with others and do instead of simply listening. This interactive training is even more successful when it incorporates small prizes or rewards. Incentivizing phishing training can make learning about an otherwise stiff security topic feel fun and worthwhile. 


3. Leverage the Power of Storytelling.

Phishing training can fail because of the format you choose to deliver your education content. Front-loading scary facts and figures about breaches doesn’t usually resonate with employees. Why should they care that a breach could cost your company money? They can feel detached from the consequences since they don’t see how it directly affects them. 

If you can engage employees through the art of storytelling, you can capture their interest in security enough to feel invested. It’s not this abstract news story about another company or this far-reaching story about fear; they see a plot unfold and connect with the emotions of characters, suddenly believing it could all be possible. The right training videos put the watcher in the shoes of the characters, truly allowing them to relate to a real event that could happen—and leaving them with powerful lessons for reacting in a similar situation. 

One way you can leverage storytelling is by choosing phishing awareness videos modeled after Netflix-like series—wherein employees feel like they’re streaming an episode of television at work! Explore some of our stimulating storylines here.


4. Make Sure Phishing Simulation Training Is Ethically Sound.

Phishing training can be a delicate subject for employees. No one likes to feel deceived, especially by their own employer! While you may have the best intentions in mind when rolling out training, poorly crafted phishing messages can break the trust of your team. 

For example, phishing messages playing off of employees’ emotions can quickly backfire. A simulated phishing email titled “Congratulations, here’s your bonus!” that leads to a “Got you!” phishing page can be perceived as manipulative and disheartening, especially during times of financial crisis for team members. Here are five questions to ask yourself before distributing a phishing simulation to ensure it’s ethically sound. 


5. Realize That, While Important, Phishing Is Only Part of Your Security Awareness Training.

Because phishing is the second costliest attack vector, it’s no wonder phishing simulations get the most attention in training programs. However, it’s crucial to not lose sight of other important cybersecurity metrics along the way. While reducing phishing clicks year after year can indicate progress towards building a stronger team of security advocates, security module completion and awareness training results beyond phishing hold great weight as well.

Compliance, password-protection, endpoint security, and a number of other factors contribute to your company’s overall security posture. Make sure you’re covering all the bases by ensuring you’re educating your team on a wide range of security threats and tracking all the important awareness training metrics.


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