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It’s an age-old story: you open an email sent from your bank notifying you of suspicious activity in your account and you have to log in to verify that activity. You click the link provided and when you try to log in, you continually see an error message. Eventually, you give up, open a new browser tab to go to the bank’s website, and are relieved to find out everything is as it should be.
Phishing, though an old tactic, continues to be popular due to its simplicity and effectiveness. When targeting organizations, the primary objective of phishing is simple: to gain a foothold into the company’s environment and launch a cyber attack.
Phishing scams target the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain: the user. In fact, a recent survey showed that 57% of survey respondents said their organization had dealt with a successful phishing attack in 2020.
The industry has seen a notable uptick in overall phishing activity and it’s likely that the pandemic, in part, drove that spike. Although cyber criminals have used COVID-19 to lure their victims into visiting fake websites and downloading malicious payloads, they have also taken advantage of organizations being forced to move to a remote workforce.
Although conducting phishing and security awareness training programs are required across numerous industries, many organizations settle for one-and-done training programs, especially if they are using licensed training modules. While the cybersecurity teams address issues that may arise with network, cloud, and endpoint security, there is still a need for CISOs to ensure that the internal end users are properly trained and aware of their role in preventing a successful breach.
Unless your employees are retaining the information they are learning, your organization may still be challenged with low cyber awareness and opportunities to improve its cyber resiliency. Additional challenges that organizations face include:
Resource and expertise constraints to manage an end-to-end program
Limitations on implementing broad and customized attacks against specific users and departments
Visibility into risk across users, departments, and overall organization
Limited availability to target training against specific risk behaviours and measure improved resiliency
Today’s phishing emails are much more sophisticated. Threat actors have perfected the art of designing the ideal email that not only mimics the email layout of the sender, but mirroring the language used by the sender as well. This helps to convince their target that the message is from a trustworthy source, like a bank, healthcare organization, government department, or even a friend.
Although traditional phishing emails were sent as bulk campaigns to average individuals, there has been a massive uptick in the use of business email compromise (BEC) attacks. According to the FBI, BEC attacks target “businesses that perform electronic payments such as wire or automated clearing house transfers. The scam is frequently carried out when a subject compromises legitimate business email accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques resulting in an unauthorized transfer of funds.”
Spear-phishing is a tactic used to target specific individuals, organizations, or businesses and uses personal information, like the recipient’s name or address and other details (e.g., their interests or friends’ email addresses) to convince the recipient that the email is legitimate.
Whaling scams are like spear-phishing scams, but they target high-profile individuals like members of the C-suite or government officials.
Spear-phishing and whaling scams can be even harder to spot, especially if the sender is pretending to be someone you know. With BEC attacks, employees can easily be sent a simple email from someone impersonating the company’s CEO asking them to wire a large sum of money immediately.
No matter how real it looks, take every email with a grain of salt — especially if it’s one you weren’t expecting to receive. Some red flags include:
language that threatens you or pressures you to act now
requests for personal information or for you to “verify” your password
unexpected good luck, such as winning a contest
spelling or grammar errors, design flaws, and links or email addresses that don’t seem right
If you receive a message that you’re not 100% certain is real:
Don’t click the links. If you want more information, look up the organization in your browser instead, so you know you’re getting information directly from the official source.
Don’t download files you weren’t expecting. Legitimate organizations don’t usually send you files, forms, or ZIP folders without you asking for them first.
Reach out to the sender by using the contact information provided on their official website or social media channels — not by replying or clicking links on the message itself.
In today’s threat landscape, security leaders shouldn’t expect that a one-time training exercise for their employees will be sufficient in raising security awareness. The key is to implement a training program that can be iterated upon, especially since employees don’t always understand where they go wrong, limiting their ability to ward off real threats.
A comprehensive phishing and security awareness training program tests the capabilities of your team on understanding phishing threats and the escalation procedure, and more importantly, trains them on a continuous basis.
With eSentire’s Managed Phishing and Security Awareness Training solution, when an employee fails a phishing simulation, they are notified immediately of the result and are required to take additional training to learn more.
In fact, we have robust phishing libraries that consist of hundreds of templates to ensure that your employees are tested against real-world scenarios, not commoditized and easy-to-spot templates.
Additional benefits of eSentire’s Managed Phishing and Security Awareness Training include:
Identifying susceptible users before attackers can capitalize
Driving immediate behavioral change and long-term security awareness
Illuminating department-level and overall organizational risk, and track improvement
Hardening overall organization against user-based risk
Achieving regulatory and third-party reporting requirements
On September 14, 2021, Mark Sangster, Vice President and Industry Security Strategist, will be partnering with (ISC)2 to explore how organizations can build a comprehensive training and testing program that leverages realistic threat scenarios to foster context-relevant security awareness that drives behavioral change.
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eSentire is the Authority in Managed Detection and Response, protecting the critical data and applications of 1200+ organizations in 75+ countries from known and unknown cyber threats. Founded in 2001, the company’s mission is to hunt, investigate and stop cyber threats before they become business disrupting events. Combining cutting-edge machine learning XDR technology, 24/7 Threat Hunting, and proven security operations leadership, eSentire mitigates business risk, and enables security at scale. The Team eSentire difference means enterprises are protected by the best in the business with a named Cyber Risk Advisor, 24/7 access to SOC Cyber Analysts & Elite Threat Hunters, and industry-leading threat intelligence research from eSentire’s Threat Response Unit (TRU). eSentire provides Managed Risk, Managed Detection and Response and Incident Response services. For more information, visit www.esentire.com and follow @eSentire.