A man giving a presentation on phishing

Workplace Phishing Awareness – Not Quite Shooting Fish in a Barrel

There is a fair expectation that sophisticated security software should provide 100% protection from phishing scams, but I am afraid we have some bad news for you.


Your anti-malware software subscription is an essential tool in your defence again online fraud, but it isn’t a silver bullet. Scammers rarely expose weaknesses in software or systems anymore, but instead target the human beings operating them. The explosion of cloud services and the abundance of clever features we use to improve our daily working lives provides ample opportunity for fraudsters to expose weaknesses in human behaviour such as fear, curiosity and embarrassment; and it is surprisingly effective and lucrative!


Just a single phishing scam could cause severe damage to your business. And, guess what? Your business doesn’t only depend on your readiness, but also that of your employees.


That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to train your employees to identify and avoid phishing scams.


Here’s the problem though – teaching them once won’t do the trick. Over time, we let our guard down and the risk shoots back up. We’re only human after all!


So, this article will show you not only how to train your employees, but also how to maintain that awareness effectively and ensure that your business doesn’t fall prey to dangerous schemes.


Phishing awareness training


Any user with access to your organisation’s systems and data is a potential weak link. Sure, you may have security measures in place such as multi-factor authentication. But these kinds of measures can’t remove the chance of human error.


There are two types of human error.


Skill-based errors are essentially mistakes made by users who know the correct course of action but are too tired or distracted to carry out their jobs.


A Decision-based error is caused by faulty decision-making, which could be tied to the lack of information or even the fact that inaction is a decision in itself.


In response to the improvements in technology, scammers are exploiting human error through social engineering.


Put simply, this is the art of using psychological tricks to convince employees to give their data and information without even having to resort to malware programmes.


So, how do you train your employees to avoid these scams?


Well back in the day, you would have to sit through lectures where someone would give a lengthy and rather boring explanation.


Unfortunately, this is a flawed approach for two reasons. First of all, lectures are not engaging and humans lack the ability to concentrate (yes, we are all becoming more and more like fish!). To add to that, theory is important but, as we are increasingly seeing in education, practice completes the learning process and habit embeds it in our psyche.


So, for SUCCESSFUL phishing awareness training…


Start with the basics


When teaching anything, your students must know why they’re learning. Explain why phishing is harmful and highlight that anyone can be a victim of phishing scams. Employees might think that they’re too smart to fall for this deception, but remind them that even being slightly tired or distracted can help a fraudster succeed.


Make it engaging


In this era of technology and interactive learning, why just use long texts and lectures? Spice up your training with other formats such as videos with interesting animations. This is always a sure-fire way to keep your employees more engaged.


And what about making it more interactive? With eLearning platforms on the rise, you have the power to make your content interactive and leave “passive” learning behind. Ask your employees questions and let them put their knowledge to the test. This will also give them personal satisfaction.


We all know it – active learning makes it impossible to snore your way through training.

Break it down


The human mind can only take in so much before it’s saturated, and no one has ever learned anything by simply overwhelming their brain with information. Break down your learning content into segments to give employees time to digest what they’ve just learned.


Another positive aspect of breaking down content is that, instead of it being a one-time thing, employees will continue to learn repeatedly throughout the year. Repetition helps you bring a skill from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind, which is key to learning.


What’s more, with this kind of continuous learning, your employees will be able to maintain a constant level of awareness.


Make them practice


As we’ve already mentioned, theory is just one side of the story. To help you imprint best practices into your employees’ minds, you should include practice too. But what does this mean?


Simulated Phishing, for example, is the practice of emulating phishing emails and seeing how your employees react. Through analytics, you can track how many emails were opened and how many links were clicked.


This is a practical way to teach your employees what to do, but also an excellent way to learn about your organisation’s weak spots. You could even turn it into a fun competition to really see who’s awake at that 4pm slump on a Friday!


Remind them!


Lastly, set up some reminders. They can be weekly or monthly, by text or through your regular communications channels, just try to keep your employees alert and aware at all times. But don’t just remind them that the threat exists, send them a copy of the procedures that they learned during training.


Of course, during training and after, monitor how your employees are doing and adjust your efforts accordingly. If something doesn’t work, discard it. If something needs changing, go ahead and change it.


Keep your employees aware at all times and remember, scammers are just waiting for them to let their guard down.



James Naylor

James Naylor is ITbuilder's Managing Director and Founder. He has worked in technology since the early nineties and, after a decade in the corporate world, went into business himself.

James has lead ITbuilder for over two decades, building the business into the force that it is today, but is still a technician at heart and still very hands on with tech.

Despite growing up in Hertfordshire, James lives in the Netherlands for five years as well as London, before returning and setting up the base in Hertford, where he lives today.

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