Cyber-security awareness Phishing

How cyber security awareness helps defend against phishing?

Since 2020, cyber security awareness has become a driving force against phishing attacks on businesses. And as we continue to work from home in 2022 as well, cybersecurity training will remain your best defense against cyberattacks.

Verizon’s 2021 DBIR hints at this reality as well. In 2021, it records, 85% of data breaches involved a human element. Thus, dissipating any doubts about the value of cyber security awareness for our businesses.

But, what does cyber security awareness really mean? And how effective is it against phishing attacks?

How cyber security awareness helps defend against phishing?

What is Phishing?

Phishing attacks, or simply, phishing has become the common attack vector used by cybercriminals. In its simplest forms, a phishing attack uses an email laced with lucrative offers or discounts that you can avail – it says – by clicking the link given in the email. Unfortunately, if you fall in the trap, you might end up sharing your bank account details with the criminal. In worst case, the criminal might steal you identity, and use it for other criminal activities.

Such attacks can occur via telephone calls and SMS as well. In essence, phishing aims at duping you into revealing your personal, financial, or business details to a criminal, with the aid of an email, phone call, or SMS.

Why you need to defend against Phishing?

Unfortunately, if an employee gets phished, the incident could compromise your entire business. For instance, if criminals manages to phish him into revealing his Office 365 username and password, they can read your emails, dupe your customers, and raise fake invoices.

In addition, they might steal your database as well. Under the law, such data breaches require you to conduct a cybersecurity investigation, inform customers, and report the incident to government agencies. Along with other expenses, the incident could attract monetary penalties under the law for failing to prevent the data breach.

Although such incidents can also occur due to criminal hacking, the data suggests that there’s a human element attached with them too. Last year, nearly 85% of the data breaches involved a human element. Unknowingly people either clicked on links, visited websites, or downloaded files that paved the way for a data breach.

Fortunately, such incidents are preventable. You can defend against phishing with cyber security awareness. By training your workers, you can reduce their vulnerability to phishing attacks. Such training would help them to spot malicious emails, guard against criminal intent, and report possible cyberattacks to your IT team.

Elements of a good cyber security awareness training (SAR)

As mentioned above, cyber security awareness needs to cover three important elements. For your ease, we’ve listed them below in a memorable format.

  1. Spotting suspicious emails, messages, and calls (S)
  2. Avoiding interactions with the suspicious content (A)
  3. Reporting the suspicious activity to the IT team (R)

SAR, or Spotting, Avoiding, and Reporting suspected phishing attacks should form the base of cyber security awareness program. With a team, trained in the SAR tactics, you can, definitely, safeguard your business from cyberattacks.

Unfortunately, most cybersecurity training programs fail to address these three elements, and thus become ineffective against criminals who continue to invent new methods to phish your business.

How to train your workers in SAR tactics?

For this, first, you need to look at your existing cyber security training program. Analyze if the current training covers the SAR or not. Then, look at the content. Would it help your workers identify a phishing attempt? Can your employees avoid interacting with such messages, and still work efficiently? Does it list the resources put in place for reporting phishing clearly?

Then, check if it covers enough examples to help trainees distinguish genuine emails from fake ones.

Once you are done with this check, look for a phishing test tool. Probably, your training program already covers this. Speak with your vendor, if they can help you run phishing tests. Or else, you can subscribe to a service that can carry out the tests for you. Phishing tests, or simulated phishing send fake phishing email to users, and record users’ interaction with the email. Such tests not only help you identify workers who are prone to phishing, but also the type of emails and websites that your IT team needs to guard against.

Next, you need to set-up a refresher program for your workers. For this, you can set up email reminders that share the training content in small chunks. Such emails should also cover recently identified phishing threats, and how to deal with them. If you have employees that work-from-office, then you should consider using posters and flyers alerting them about phishing.

In Conclusion

Unfortunately, we cannot cover all anti-phishing tactics in one blog post. Safeguarding against such attacks demands much more space. Especially, if you consider the role of safe password practices, and how workers use their mobile devices at work and at home in protecting your business.

Moreover, email phishing is just a form of an attack vector that includes smishing, vishing, and spearphishing as well. However, the basic elements of your strategy against this attack vector should always remain the same – Spot suspicious behavior, avoid interacting with it, and report the attack, immediately.

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