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What is phishing and security awareness training (PSAT)?

Phishing scams continue to be a popular attack vector due to the simplicity and effectiveness. When targeting organizations, the primary objective of phishing is simple: to gain a foothold into the company’s environment and deploy ransomware or malware. However, adversaries are beginning to leverage multiple tactics to gain access into your organization every day, such as business email compromise attacks, drive-by compromises, and SEO poisoning.

Therefore, the core objective of a phishing and security awareness training (PSAT) program is to train employees to avoid falling victim to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, drive-by compromises, and phishing emails. After all, it only takes one successful social engineering attack to cripple your business operations.

However, not all PSAT programs are created equal. An effective PSAT program will contain threat scenarios that train and test user resiliency while generating measurable results that showcase an organization’s weak points of where social engineering tactics are a risk.

Who Needs Phishing and Security Awareness Training?

Phishing attacks 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. Therefore, every organization, regardless of the industry vertical, size, or cybersecurity maturity level should invest in a PSAT program.

Within the organization, every employee, regardless of their position within the company, should undergo PSAT to understand the various phishing tactics used by adversaries, different types of industry-specific phishing attacks used to lure victims, and how to recognize what a phishing attempt looks like.

What are the Benefits of Phishing and Security Awareness Training?

By having employees participate in a PSAT program, your organization can:

  • Better identify the signs of social engineering tactics (e.g., spear-phishing or whaling) and test your end users against the latest tactics used in real-world scenarios
  • Protect your systems and sensitive data from hackers
  • Drive behavioral change through integrating education at a moment of a failed test
  • Build cyber resilience by identifying susceptible users before cybercriminals can capitalize on your vulnerabilities
  • Extend the expertise of your cybersecurity team with integrated social engineering professionals
  • Harden your organization’s cyber defenses by illuminating cyber risk at the department level and end user level

How Do You Know if Phishing and Security Awareness Training is Effective?

It’s important to understand that not all security awareness training programs are effective. Threat actors have different methods of accessing your systems depending on the tools and platforms that are used for daily operations.

Therefore, here are five elements your organization can use to create an effective phishing and cybersecurity awareness training program:

Drive cybersecurity awareness and behavioral change

Understanding cyber risks that are relevant to your industry is key to knowing what to look out for when it comes to phishing attacks and other social engineering tactics. Up-to-date knowledge on the latest and relevant cyber attacks connected to your industry drives more awareness, leading to behavioral change that keeps your organization secure.

Test the resiliency of the end user

Real-world phishing simulations allow employees to put their PSAT education to the test. It reflects the same tactics that cyber criminals use for specific industries, meaning that if your employees can recognize them in comparison to generalized methods, they are more resilient to real phishing attempts.

Identify and measure improvement

When testing user resiliency, it is important to gain an understanding of the challenges and weak points that are present. Measurable steps that can be tracked for progress makes it easier to identify what gaps may be present in the process that leaves more room for failure. By providing the right resources (e.g., automatically providing users who fail a phishing test the right training modules), improvement and desired outcomes can be achieved.

Alleviate resource constraints

Cybersecurity incidents can be time consuming and costly. PSAT programs can assist in lowering the frequency of security events and their severity, saving time and money. The less time that an organization’s IT team is spending putting out fires, the more time they can invest in security priorities.

Meet regulatory and third-party reporting requirements

Depending on your organization’s regulatory and third-party reporting requirements, you will need a PSAT provider who can assist in fulfilling these obligations.

Learn in-depth about the five elements of an effective PSAT program here.

How do you Find a Phishing and Security Awareness Training Program?

When researching different PSAT vendors, ask yourself:

  • Can they run phishing simulations and use convincing lures?
  • Do they use recent and relevant real-world examples?
  • Do they measure improvement and report on the progress made throughout the program?
  • Do they outline the cyber risks that impact your industry and create tests based off of them?

How Should You Evaluate the Effectiveness of Phishing and Security Awareness Training Programs?

The purpose of a PSAT program is to improve business resiliency by reducing exposure to cyber risks, alleviate resource constraints, and increase your organization’s ability to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Therefore, successful PSAT programs should provide contextual phishing examples, empower your employees to protect themselves and the business, and provide clear threat reporting mechanisms.

To measure and report on your PSAT program, there are two models you can explore: the SANS Security Awareness Roadmap and the Kirkpatrick model. However, when it comes to metrics, there are two metrics to focus on:

  • Employee engagement, since it’s the most qualitative measure and it tells you that you’ve got through to your employees.
  • Time employees proactively spend with the IT or cybersecurity teams, since this shows passion, which in turn shows their commitment to cybersecurity and desire to protect the business.

Learn more about how you should evaluate the success of PSAT here.

Stay Ahead of the Threat Curve with eSentire’s Managed Phishing and Security Awareness Training

Designing a PSAT program that’s both educational and effective can be a challenge. That’s why our Managed Phishing and Security Awareness Training puts your user protection against the latest social engineering cyberattacks relevant to your industry.

Our end-to-end service ensures that your users are continuously tested and hardened against even the most sophisticated phishing attempts by leveraging software paired with dedicated social engineering experts. Users are tested against real-world scenarios to drive behavioral change, not generalized templates that just check off a compliance box.

We automatically assign our PSAT modules to users that fall victim to simulated testing, ensuring education is integrated at the moment of failure and drives sustained behavioral change. Our program generates measurable results to help you meet regulatory requirements and ensure your organization is resilient against the latest social engineering tactics.

eSentire Managed Risk Services

Take control of cyber risk. eSentire offers multiple Managed Risk Services, tailored to your business needs, to help your organization proactively identify gaps and refine your cybersecurity strategy. This includes a regular cadence of security assessments and testing to continue to strengthen your security posture

Learn how eSentire Multi-Signal Managed Detection and Response stops threats before they impact your business.