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The Importance Of User Awareness Training For Phishing Emails

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By: Shimon Brathwaite

June 4, 2021

Phishing is an attempt to receive sensitive information like usernames, passwords, or credit card numbers by impersonating an entity that the victim trusts. This can mean impersonating someone's friend, their manager, significant other, etc. This attack type is extremely successful because the human factor is the weakest link in an organization's security operations. Typically, technology will do whatever it is programmed to do, but users tend to be more unpredictable. Therefore, hackers tend to target users in the hopes that they can be tricked or manipulated to do something that they are not supposed to do.

How To Prevent Phishing Attacks

Given how prevalent phishing attacks are in cybersecurity, organizations must invest in defending against them. User awareness training is the first line of defense. This means teaching employees how to recognize phishing emails, texts, and phone calls and properly report them. Phishing attacks tend to follow a similar format. Therefore, if employees can learn how to recognize the common features, they are less likely to fall for one of these scams. The following lists a few things you should train your employees to look out for in a phishing attack:

Unfamiliar tone/greetings: Often, phishing campaigns use a standard template, and these templates are sent out in mass to hundreds or thousands of people. Therefore, the tone of the communication may not fit the exact relationship of the employee it is impersonating. When the impersonators dispatch the communication, they are unaware of the exact relationship and, therefore, may be overly familiar or too formal, indicating that the communication is not authentic.

Grammar and spelling errors: Many times, phishing emails will have spelling or grammar errors. Notice an email coming from a business entity or a friend with an unusually high number of grammatical errors. This can be another indication that you are dealing with a phishing email.

Inconsistency with email, links, and domain names: Phishing emails will often claim to be from a certain entity, but the email addresses, links, or domain names will be from another organization. The reason is hackers want to redirect the victim to their spoofed websites rather than the legitimate ones. Therefore, it is imperative to train employees to check these elements and line up with the message's subject. Employees can call the help desk for assistance in identifying a phishing email.

Sense of urgency/call to action: The last important element of a phishing email is a sense of urgency and call to action. Most phishing campaigns will create a sense of urgency by giving the victim a timeline or stating the matter is urgent to make people rush and think less rationally. The hacker will follow up on this claim by giving the victim an action to do, such as logging into a webpage, calling a number, or opening an attachment. The goal here is to pressure the user into performing an action that will give the hacker what they want.

Why You Need To Test Your Employees

To ensure employees are properly prepared for phishing attacks, you should invest in phishing simulations. The only way to make sure that your training is effective is to put it to the test. Many companies offer phishing simulation services where they will create phishing emails, texts, phone calls, and more to see how well your employees respond. This will help you identify gaps in your training programs and improve them for the future.


Phishing emails are among the most popular attack vectors in cybersecurity, affecting approximately 45% of data breaches. To make sure your organization is safe, you must invest in user awareness training for your employees. This will enable them to identify and report phishing campaigns before they have an opportunity to cause data breaches. Additionally, it would be best to occasionally have phishing simulations to test your employees and ensure that your training program is effective.

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