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    Phishing simulations: do they work? - ThreatAdvice

    With an estimated 3.4 billion spam emails sent every day, businesses need to ensure they are covering all bases when it comes to stopping phishing attacks. There are many robust security solutions available that are created to protect businesses against phishing, but no solution is 100% guaranteed to work, particularly when those attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated every year.

    Phishing attacks use social engineering tactics to trick unsuspecting victims into clicking on malicious links, downloading malware, or giving away sensitive information. These attacks can lead to devastating consequences, including data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage.

    To combat the threat of phishing, many organizations are turning to phishing simulations. In this article, we'll explore what phishing is, the impact it can have on businesses, and how phishing simulations can help protect your organization from cyber-attacks.

    What is phishing and how does it work?

    Phishing is a type of cyber-attack that uses email, text messages, or phone calls to trick users into giving away sensitive information or downloading malware. Phishing attacks often appear to come from a reputable source, such as a bank or an online service provider and use social engineering tactics to create a sense of urgency or fear in the victim. For example, a phishing email might claim that there has been suspicious activity on the victim's account and urge them to click a link to reset their password. Once the victim clicks the link, they are taken to a fake website that looks like the real one, where they are prompted to enter their login credentials or other sensitive information. This information is then collected by the attacker and used for fraudulent purposes. In some cases, the phishing email might contain a malicious attachment that, once opened, infects the victim's computer with malware.

    Traditional methods of preventing phishing attacks

    The most common methods of preventing phishing attacks include spam filters, anti-virus software, and firewalls. These tools can help to block known phishing emails and prevent malware from infecting a network.

    However, they are not foolproof and can be bypassed by sophisticated attackers. In addition, these tools do not address the human element of phishing attacks, which is often the weakest link in a company's cybersecurity.

    To address this weakness, many companies are turning to phishing simulations.

    What are phishing simulations?

    Phishing simulations are designed to mimic real-life phishing attacks and test employees' ability to identify and avoid them. These simulations typically involve sending employees fake phishing emails, which are designed to look like real ones, and monitoring their responses. The aim is to educate employees on the risks of phishing and improve their ability to identify and avoid suspicious emails and links.

    Phishing simulations have become increasingly popular in recent years, as more companies recognize the importance of employee training in cybersecurity. More than 90% of successful cyber-attacks are caused by human error. By training employees to recognize and avoid phishing attacks, companies can significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to such attacks.

    How phishing simulations work

    Phishing simulations typically involve three main steps: planning, execution, and analysis.

    • In the planning stage, the company identifies the objectives of the simulation, selects the type of phishing email to be used, and determines the target audience. The company may also customize the phishing email to make it more relevant to the target audience.
    • In the execution stage, the phishing email is sent to the target audience, and their responses are monitored. The company may use a phishing simulation tool to track the responses and provide feedback to the employees.
    • In the analysis stage, the company analyzes the results of the simulation and identifies areas for improvement. This may include providing additional training to employees, updating policies and procedures, or improving the company's technical controls. 

    Phishing simulations should be repeated regularly to ensure that employees are consistently trained and aware of the risks of phishing. Regular training can help to reinforce good cybersecurity practices and reduce the risk of cyber-attacks.

    Benefits of using phishing simulations

    Phishing simulations offer several benefits for businesses, including:

    Improved employee awareness

    Phishing simulations help to raise employee awareness of the risks of phishing and the importance of cybersecurity. By educating employees on the tactics used by attackers and how to avoid them, companies can significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to phishing attacks.

    Reduced risk of data breaches

    Phishing simulations can help to identify vulnerabilities in a company's security posture and address them before they can be exploited by attackers. By identifying and addressing these vulnerabilities, companies can reduce their risk of data breaches and other cyber-attacks.


    Phishing simulations are a cost-effective way to improve cybersecurity awareness and reduce the risk of cyber attacks. Compared to other cybersecurity measures, such as hiring additional staff or implementing new technical controls, phishing simulations are relatively inexpensive.


    Phishing simulations can help companies comply with regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and GDPR. These regulations require companies to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, disclosure, or destruction. 

    Choosing the right phishing simulation tool

    Phishing attacks are a growing threat to businesses of all sizes. Employee awareness training that includes phishing simulations is a cost-effective and efficient way to improve cybersecurity awareness and reduce the risk of cyber-attacks. The ThreatAdvice Cybersecurity Education solution includes quarterly phishing simulations to put what your employees have learned to a real-world test and ensure they are aware of the risks of phishing and keep your business secure.