Three common mistakes that can sabotage your security training


The number of phishing incidents is increasing. A report from IBM It turns out that phishing was the most popular attack vector in 2021, causing one in five employees to fall victim to phishing hacking techniques.

The Need for Security Awareness Training

While technical solutions protect against phishing threats, no solution is 100% effective. Companies therefore have no choice but to involve their employees in the fight against hackers. This is where security awareness training comes in.

Safety awareness training gives companies confidence that their employees will give the correct answer when they discover a phishing message in their inbox.

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power”, but the effectiveness of knowledge depends a lot on how it is delivered. When it comes to phishing attacks, simulations are among the most effective forms of training because the events in training simulations directly mimic how an employee would react in the event of an actual attack. Because employees don’t know whether a suspicious email in their inbox is a simulation or a real threat, the training becomes even more valuable.

Phishing Simulations: What does the training involve?

It is critical to plan, implement and evaluate a cyber awareness training program to ensure that employee behavior really changes. However, for this effort to succeed, there must be much more to it than just emailing employees. The key practices to consider are:

Real-life phishing simulations. Adaptive learning – live response and protection against actual cyber attacks. Personalized training based on factors such as department, employment and cyber experience level. Empowering and equipping employees with an always-on cybersecurity mindset. Data-driven campaigns

Since employees do not recognize the difference between phishing simulations and real cyber attacks, it is important to remember that phishing simulations evoke different emotions and reactions, so awareness training must be carried out carefully. As organizations must deploy their employees to fight the ever-increasing attacks and protect their assets, it is important to keep morale high and create a positive culture of cyber hygiene.

Three common phishing simulation errors.

Based on years of experience, cybersecurity company CybeReady has seen companies fall into these common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Testing instead of training

The approach of running a phishing simulation as a test to catch and punish “repeat offenders” can do more harm than good.

A learning experience with stress is counterproductive and even traumatic. As a result, employees will not go through the training but will look for ways to circumvent the system. In general, the fear-based “audit approach” is not beneficial to the organization in the long run, as it cannot provide the necessary training over a longer period of time.

Solution #1: Be Sensitive

Because maintaining positive employee morale is critical to organizational well-being, ensure positive just-in-time training.

Just-in-time training means that as soon as employees click on a link within the simulated attack, they are directed to a short and concise training. The idea is to quickly inform the employee about their mistake and give them essential tips on how to spot malicious emails in the future.

This is also an opportunity for positive reinforcement, so make sure to keep the training short, sweet and positive.

Solution #2: Inform relevant departments.

Communicate with relevant stakeholders to ensure they are aware of ongoing training in phishing simulation. Many organizations forget to inform relevant stakeholders, such as HR or other employees, that the simulations are being performed. Learning has the best effect when participants have the opportunity to feel supported, to make mistakes and to correct them.

Mistake #2: Use the same simulation for all employees

It is important to vary the simulations. Sending the same simulation to all employees, especially at the same time, is not only uninstructive, but also lacks valid measures when it comes to organizational risk.

The “warning effect” – the first employee to discover or fall for the simulation warns the others. This prepares your employees to respond to the “threat” by anticipating the simulation, bypassing the simulation and training opportunity.

Another negative effect is the social desirability bias, which causes employees to over-report incidents to IT without noticing them to be viewed more favorably. This leads to an overloaded system and the IT department.

This form of simulation also leads to inaccurate results, such as unrealistically low click-through rates and overreporting rates. So the statistics don’t show the real risks of the business or the issues that need to be addressed.

Solution: drip mode

In drip mode, multiple simulations can be sent to different employees at different times. Certain software solutions can even do this automatically by sending all kinds of simulations to different groups of employees. It’s also important to implement a continuous cycle to ensure all new hires are well on-board and to reinforce that security is important 24/7 – not just checking a box for minimum compliance.

Mistake #3: Relying on Data from One Campaign

With over 3.4 billion phishing attacks per day, it’s safe to assume that at least a million of them differ in complexity, language, approach, or even tactics.

Unfortunately, no phishing simulation can accurately represent an organization’s risk. Relying on a single phishing simulation result is unlikely to produce reliable results or extensive training.

Another important consideration is that different groups of employees respond differently to threats, not only because of their vigilance, education, position, tenure or even education level, but also because the response to phishing attacks is also contextual.

Solution: Implement different training programs

Behavioral change is an evolutionary process and must therefore be measured over time. Each workout contributes to the progress of the workout. The effectiveness of training, or in other words, an accurate reflection of actual behavioral change in the organization, can be determined after multiple training sessions and over time.

The most effective solution is to provide continuously (at least once a month) different training programs with multiple simulations.

It is strongly recommended to train employees according to their level of risk. A diverse and comprehensive simulation program also provides reliable measurement data based on systematic behavior over time. To validate their effective training efforts, organizations must be able to obtain a valid indication of their risk at any time while monitoring progress in risk reduction.

Implement an effective phishing simulation program.

Creating such a program may seem overwhelming and time consuming. That’s why we’ve created a playbook of the top 10 practices you can use to create a simple and effective phishing simulation. just download the CybeReady Playbook or meet one of our experts for a product demo and learn how CybeReady’s fully automated security awareness training platform can help your organization achieve the fastest results with virtually no IT effort.