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Are Phishing Simulations Effective at Stopping Data Breaches?

Cybersecurity, which used to be the domain of specialized IT experts, is now a concern for every employee who even opens an email. But with this wider focus on security, we have to ask: Are the training exercises we're giving our teams, like phishing simulations, actually effective, or are we missing the target entirely?

Enter the debate on phishing simulations, a crucial part of any modern cybersecurity training program. For businesses dealing with online threats, it's not just about the exercise itself, but the return on investment of using these tools. How effective are phishing simulations and are they worth the time and investment?

Let's find out.

What is a phishing simulation and why are they used?

A phishing simulation is a controlled exercise designed to test and improve an organization's security posture by educating its employees on how to identify and respond to phishing attempts. They simulate real-life phishing attacks that employees may encounter, without a malicious outcome.

Phishing simulations are gaining popularity as cyber-threat rehearsals in organizations. But what do they really achieve beyond a compliance checkbox?

Traditional awareness training often falls short as a one-size-fits-all approach. The sporadic and generic information fails to resonate with individuals who need personalized and continuous instruction to foster a culture of cyber-awareness.

Phishing simulations, on the other hand, are more targeted and immersive, offering experiential education.


Are phishing simulations effective?

At the moment, the results are looking positive.

2022 Annual State of Phishing Report is a recent cyber security analysis that has examined millions of campaign results from users who have undergone simulated phishing training. According to the research, repeated phishing simulations have proven to be an effective method in helping employees identify malicious emails, thereby reducing their vulnerability. In fact, the report reveals that 70% of respondents were initially susceptible to simulated phishing emails, but after five rounds of simulations, the percentage dramatically dropped to single digits. This demonstrates that increasing the frequency of phishing simulations enhances your staff's ability to recognize phishing emails.

The annual state report also revealed that a remarkable 82% of trained employees promptly reported simulated phishing attempts within 60 minutes of receiving them. This timely user reporting not only reduces the window of opportunity for attackers to access data or infiltrate the network, but it also enhances the security team's ability to detect and respond to potential breaches. It's truly impressive how quick and effective the reporting process can be in safeguarding our systems and information.

The success of simulated phishing is further validated by additional industry research, which highlights a significant decrease in the average *phish-prone percentage from 37.9% to 4.7% after one year of phishing awareness training. This remarkable improvement rate of 87% demonstrates the effectiveness of such training.


Phishing Simulation Best Practices

While phishing simulations are effective in improving the reporting of phishing emails and reducing the risk of taking actions that can lead to a breach, it is worth noting that phishing simulation is not a blanket solution to phishing.

So how can you maximize the effectiveness of your phishing simulations?


Targeted approach

Phishing simulations must be tailored to the organization's specific needs, industry and employees. It is essential to understand the different roles and responsibilities of each employee when designing a simulation program. This ensures that the exercise is relevant and resonates with each employee, making it more likely for them to apply what they have learned in real-life scenarios. Cyber attackers are constantly evolving their tactics, making it crucial for businesses to continually adapt and improve their security measures. The same applies to phishing simulations - they should be continuously improved and adapted to reflect the ever-changing threat landscape. This will help ensure that employees are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to counter emerging threats.


Regular and evolving simulations

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving landscape, and so should your training program. Regular phishing simulations keep employees' knowledge fresh and up-to-date with the latest tactics used by cybercriminals. This proactive approach not only enhances the protection of sensitive data, but also instills a culture of vigilance and resilience within the workforce.


Follow up with specific training

After conducting phishing simulations, it's vital to analyze the results and use them as a tool for improvement. Identifying areas where employees may have struggled will help in designing targeted training programs to address those gaps. It's also essential to recognize employees who excel in identifying and reporting phishing – perhaps these employees can become cybersecurity champions within their teams as a first checkpoint for their colleagues.


Let's go phishing

Are phishing simulations really worth it? The answer is yes, but with an addendum that they should be regular and varied, and that you should use simulations to inform your ongoing cyber awareness training.

While there is no foolproof way to prevent cyber attacks, phishing simulations offer an effective strategy in mitigating their success and protecting vital information.

Ready to help your employees stop falling for phishing emails? Let's talk about launching your phishing awareness training and automated, real-world phishing simulations today.