Successful implementation of an attack simulation: tips and tricks
According to statistics, phishing simulations conducted in real time have two significant benefits, namely, doubling employee awareness retention rates and bringing about a near 40% ROI, compared to more traditional cybersecurity training methods. You should keep in mind, however, that employees – your organization’s weakest cybersecurity link – cannot be trained overnight, so this endeavor will require careful planning. Naturally, it’s much easier to go through this process if you have a list of tips that can guide you through a simulation. Here are the points you should consider:
Similar to approaching any important project, the first step in running a successful internal phishing training campaign is to make sure all concerned parties are notified and ready to comply. This includes executives, board of directors, IT and HR team, and your legal department.
This step is usually accomplished fast and easy as it requires only a mild investment in phishing education in exchange of employee knowledge that can protect your company data from hacker attacks. Don’t forget to consult your HR department to ensure your simulations comply with current company policies. It’s also wise to reach out to your IT and Helpdesk Departments and discuss the planned activities with them.
- Did you get approval from the relevant departments (legal, risk, HR, support etc.)?
- Has anyone voiced concerns you didn’t consider?
Always make sure to state the goals of each activity, including information on what you want to be tested. Usually, phishing engagements are concerned with testing people and their reactions to phishing emails. The points of concern are: Will a user click on a suspicious link, fill in their credentials in a web form, install unknown software, or otherwise interact with the email contents?
In many cases, however, phishing simulations test non-human defenses as well. These typically come in the form of spam and phishing filters that protect the company’s mail server. Knowing that your network defenses work is great, but it’s imperative that the phishing simulation reaches your employees. Additionally, make sure you warn your testers about any flooding protections set up on your mail server.
Remember, running a phishing test has one main purpose: to educate your employees so they are aware of the hackers’ tactics and of the ways to avoid becoming their victim. In no way should you try to catch your employees in a mistake without prior training or warn them about the scenarios beforehand as that wouldn’t help either. The security of your company is your main goal, and your employees should be aware of that.
Measure the behaviors: A common issue with many training programs and phishing simulations is that their behavior remains unchanged throughout the course of the test. Identify the goals that your phishing simulation should meet, then design a path that evaluates if, and to what extent, each goal is accomplished.
- Did you already perform phishing simulations in the past and if yes: what were the average click/data submit rates?
- What is the expected click/data submit rate for the planed phishing simulation?
- What is the desired click and data submit rate after the simulation / training; after 1 year of simulation/training?
Understand the past education
Don’t forget to consider prior simulations and trainings that you’ve conducted on the topic of phishing and scam detection.
If your employees have already been trained to spot scams, you should probably consider more sophisticated attack simulations that will be more difficult to recognize.
- Have you already trained all users on phishing & social engineering?
- Do you keep the results from past trainings to compare with future attack simulations?
- How do trainings currently look like (length, interactivity, video, exam, design etc.)?
Understand the current exposure of employees to the internet
One main tactic attackers use is ‘spoofing’, that is, creating emails that closely resemble those of trusted organizations. They can then use those spoofed emails to attack your customers or employees.
Any publicly available information about your company can be used by attackers to create convincing phishing messages aimed at your employees. Your website and social media pages often offer all the data scammers need to run an attack, so keep an eye on any information that your partners share online about your organization.
*LUCY offers an employee online footprint analysis service for the price of USD 500. Its aim is to help you understand which of your sensitive employee information can be viewed on the Internet as well as the kind of data your employees tend to share publicly via their company e-mail address.
Once you have a better idea of your data exposure on public channels, you’ll be equipped to help your staff understand how sharing their personal information can affect them and your organization. You can use this to develop a clear digital footprint policy for all users. Of course, you should not expect your employees to remove all traces of themselves from the Internet. What you can do instead is help them to better manage their digital footprint, so they share information in a way that protects them and the organization.
- Do you request of your employees to not use business email addresses for private services?
- Do you want to perform an employee footprint analysis (the results can be used at a later point for specific eLearning)?
Understand the infrastructure
It’s common for organizations to keep a sophisticated multi-tier system of defenses on their servers so phishing attacks would not reach their employees. Therefore, in order to successfully run a phishing simulation, you will need to whitelist the addresses from which the ‘threats’ will be sent. This whitelisting will need to take effect at email gateways, anti-virus software and web proxies.
- Is it possible to whitelist LUCY's IP and sender domain from the campaign scenario on the SPAM filter?
- Is it possible to whitelist LUCY's IP and sender domain from the campaign scenario on the web proxy?
- Are there any limitations set on sending emails (for example a maximum number of emails in a specific time range)?
Create Whitelist Entry for IP/sender mail domain: https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=avoid_spam_issues#whitelisting_in_different_products
Make sure you set a scheduler to limit amount of emails send https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=scheduler
Make sure in campaign mails do not get filtered https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=avoid_spam_issues
Decide where you want to run the simulation
You can run the attack simulation from a cloud server or on-premise. Reasons for an on-premise installation are:
- Legal: Some laws might not allow you to store sensitive data on an external server outside your network or outside your country. Especially with the new data protection law in Europe (GDPR) you need to make sure any personalized or sensitive data is secured.
- Integration: There are various integration options such as reporting the results to your own LMS or synchronizing the recipients with your active directory. Integrating the attack simulation software with your own applications might require an on-premise installation.
- Security: You might store sensitive data like windows login, usernames, emails etc. within the database. Transmitting or storing such sensitive data on a cloud server might be a violation of your security policies.
- Do you plan to integrate LUCY with your internal systems (LDAP, LMS etc.)?
Consult this chapter to learn more about installation options: https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=network_design_-_where_to_setup_lucy
Understand the technical parts from the user perspective
Do you know which types of malware can get past your defenses? What kind of security do you use against spoofing, malware, etc.? You can never plan a successful phishing simulation until you know and understand all the technical information involved.
For instance: Employees who are allowed to run executable files should be tested for awareness toward downloads with executable content.
*LUCY features a handy built-in functionality called “mail- and web-filter test.” It provides the answer to one of the most important questions in securing Internet and mail traffic: Which file types can an employee download from the Web, and which e-mail attachments are filtered out or not? The tool is part of the LUCY framework and can be used for free. An analysis performed by our consultants is offered at USD 500.
- Do you know what file types can be attached to an email or downloaded and executed from the internet from a standard Windows client?
- If you are not familiar with your permissions, would you like to perform an analysis?
This WIKI article helps you setup a technical mail- and web filter test: https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=mail_and_webfilter_test
The purpose of your phishing simulation is not to set a trap up for your employees to fall into. On the contrary, it is to provide a safe environment where they can learn what phishing attempts look like in reality. Therefore, it’s a good strategy to warn your employees about the upcoming campaign so they feel included in this plan toward protecting company sensitive data and digital infrastructure.
You can also use this notification as a reminder about the importance of recognizing suspicious emails which can cause security breaches and loss of data. For instance, the ransomware attacks that keep developing have the potential to damage your company’s reputation, lose customer trust and revenue, and even result in fines. Thus, it’s even better if your CEO is involved, so your employees can understand that cybersecurity awareness is everyone’s responsibility.
- Do you plan to communicate to your employees that you will perform phishing simulations?
Help users identify and report suspected phishing emails
If your employees notice suspicious emails, but notify no one, the threat remains. Make sure your users feel encouraged to seek help in situations that raise their awareness. A good report system can provide clues about the types of phishing attacks targeting your company, and thus help improve your defenses.
A well-working report system where users can freely share their suspicions about potential attacks can also provide information about emails mistaken for phishing, and how that impacts your organization.
- Do you plan to give users the option to report emails via a plugin?
- What type of email clients do you have in your environment and which ones should be supported?
- Where should emails get reported?
- Do you have any specifications in terms of icon design (report button) and text that is displayed, when a user reports a suspicious email?
Make sure you set up a general report email such as: firstname.lastname@example.org which employees can use when an email they receive looks suspicious. Educate them about the steps they need to take in case of a perceived threat and provide them with the tools to report it in an easy way, such as a plug-in report button embedded in their inbox.
LUCY offers a phishing reporter plugin for various mail service platforms where employees can report suspicious emails with just one click. Note that this ease of reporting usually doubles the report rate of suspected emails, so it would be a good idea to provide your security team with the right tools and resources to handle and analyze the influx of emails. LUCY has a handy solution that applies machine learning to spot real attacks.
- Create a report button in LUCY: https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=outlook_plugin_phishing_incidents
Before you initialize a phishing simulation assessment in your organization, your current employees need to go through an introductory training scheme. This same training will later be provided for new employees upon hiring (preferably before they get access to their company email accounts).
Please list all the desired training topics to be covered
- Through which medium (flyer, newsletter, on-site teaching, screensaver, poster, web-based teaching, etc.) should the security content be delivered to the employees?
- Are all or some parts of the training mandatory?
- Is there an optimal structure for training courses (e.g., start with theoretical part, then run a video, followed by a game, with the test at the end)?
- Do all employees in the organization get the same training or do you require department-specific training content?
- Is the training “success” going to be monitored? And if yes: do you want it monitored on a personalized level?
- Are there any penalties for users who refuse to participate in trainings?
- What is the desired training frequency for the different training methods? How often do you plan to update the training content?
- Are there already existing trainings, which should be incorporated into our training courses?
- Do you also want to test the training know-how (e.g., via exams)?
- Do you wish to include training gamification elements?
- Should users get a certificate when they pass the training exams?
- In which languages does the training need to be delivered?
- Do training videos need to have close captions?
- Do you want the training videos to have your own logo at the start and end?
- What are the requirements in terms of corporate design towards the training (font type, size, logo, etc.)?
- Does all training content need to work also on mobile devices? If yes: in which minimal screen resolution?
- What is the default browser and screen resolution for a standard user?
- Are there any technological restrictions for the training courses (e.g., Java scripts blocked)?
- Can we include links and sources (e.g., videos) from external servers or does all the training content need to run locally?
- Current policies: Which security guidelines are to be incorporated into the training (e.g., training password security: minimum number of characters; internet usage guidelines, etc.)?
- Training length: what is the desired length for the different courses (note: the same course could be presented as a 1-minute micro training module and an extended version)?
- Training library: do you wish to have all training modules accessible through a central training library?
- Do you wish to be able to edit all training content yourself?
- Should the training run only on our platform or would you rather we create an export (e.g., SCORM) of all trainings for you?
* The LUCY database contains more than 200 interactive, web-based training modules (videos, tests, quizzes, games, and more) on various security topics. These can be given to employees based on the results of attack simulations, or independently. All trainings can be customized.
- Create eLearning: Add an eLearning to the campaign https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=awareness_e-learning_settings
- Make sure you define the right success action, when the eLearning should get triggered https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=success_actions
- Educate first: create an awareness only campaign https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=create_an_awareness_only_campaign_no_phishing
Choosing the right frequency
Before you run a phishing simulation test, you need to plan for it. If you send the test emails too often, most employees will get used to recognizing them. And if you send them on occasion, you will not have enough statistics to analyze.
The best approach is to create each phishing test as a series of simulations, e.g., a campaign, that runs for roughly 3 to 4 months. This strategy will give you a clear-cut way to understand the level of your employee-based security.
It’s important to set up your campaign with progressive difficulty. In other words, the first simulation email should be easy to recognize, then you can build the following ones up by exploring different angles and tiers of subtlety.
- How many phishing simulations do you plan per year?
- How many phishing emails should a user get per year (minimum/maximum)?
Do not run more than 4 attack simulations per user/per year. 2 attack simulations per user/year are perceived as optimal.
Choosing the right people to test
Sending a phishing simulation campaign out to the whole company at once might cause suspicion. Instead, choose a group of employees you’d like to test, and only target them with a specific simulation. You could also pick a dozen scenarios which you can then split among your employees for better analysis.
Keep in mind that not all employees should be targeted in the same way. For instance, customer support may be at higher risk of receiving unsolicited emails, while your IT, financial, and data administration departments may be the target of more sophisticated types of phishing. You would do wisely to train your risk-group staff about all possible threats and provide additional support for them.
User coverage and simulation frequency should be determined based on the perceived risk (Example: Finance & Payments – 2 themes / X months, senior leadership – 1 theme / X months). High risk functions / department / individuals handling important role in the organization should be covered more frequently as part of the simulation.
Think about data privacy
All employee performance data you gather via phishing simulations should be treated as personal data. Don’t overlook the potential implications if this data is made accessible to your company’s public space. Treat your employees with respect and don’t cause reputational or career stress.
If your phishing simulation requests user data, you could use encryption. Another alternative is to purposefully use a site without encryption to create additional learning experience, teaching the user to never input sensitive data on an unencrypted site.
- How long will gathered data be kept?
- What will be done with it?
- How securely will it be kept?
- Do you want to store the users’ input data?
- Do you want to submit the users’ input data?
- Encryption: Should the landing page for the attack simulation be accessed over an encrypted channel and does it require a trusted certificate?
If you plan not to store data:
- Make the campaign anonymous https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=anonymisation
- Don’t submit passwords https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=edit_landing_page#using_a_login_form_that_only_submits_the_username_but_not_then_password
- Redirect users before submitting passwords https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=redirecting_users#redirect_a_user_in_a_form_field_before_he_clicks_the_submit_button
- Prevent LUCY from storing passwords https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=prevent_lucy_from_collecting_passwords_in_form_submits
If you want the data to be visible:
- Make sure you set “collect data” to full in the scenario settings https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=create_your_first_phishing_campaign&s=collect&s=data
- Encryption used: create a certificate for your scenario https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=ssl_configuration#using_ssl_for_attack_simulations_or_awareness_training
*LUCY allows you to run campaigns in anonymous mode to comply with GDPR and data privacy laws. https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=anonymisation
Define technical requirements for web content
Go for mobile-friendly modules for your interactive training. Whether used by themselves or as a part of a course, being able to look at the modules via a mobile device will give more access options to your employees. And it’s also easy and quick to set up.
- Do the attack & training templates need to be responsive or only be displayed correctly on certain minimal resolutions?
Choose the number of scenarios
When deciding whether to run one or more scenarios in your organization, you should always consider the downsides. For instance, a single scenario received by all employees at the same time is bound to raise suspicion. So, after a short while, you won’t be able to measure the level of security awareness as the clicks will quickly wean down. A better strategy is to use multiple scenarios when you want to test employees in the same office space.
If you do want to run a single template, you should make sure the content is general enough to be relevant to everyone in the company. Specific templates, such as “package delivery notification” and “online booking confirmation” will not be of interest to most of your employees. A template like “employee survey about [some generic topic]” or “required employee registration” would garner the interest of your target group.
- Do you plan to start with only 1 attack template or multiple templates?
- If multiple templates: how many scenarios should be prepared in total?
Know the limits of any scenario
Think carefully about possible template limitations. There may be none, but sometimes clients don’t want specific institutions or people to be impersonated.
Another good idea is to keep in mind planned company activities and not jeopardize project trust unreasonably. For instance, if you’re planning to migrate from one security software to another (say, McAfee to Norton), you wouldn’t want to use a Norton phishing template.
- Are there any limitations in terms of scenarios/themes that cannot be used in attack simulations?
Choosing the right scenario type
Once you have all of these figured out, you can start planning your phishing email scenarios. Look up current phishing strategies and refer to scam emails you have received.
Think like a scammer and use the knowledge you have of your employees to create a campaign that is likely to get them curious. This may not come natural to you, but it’s important to get shrewd and tricky.
Use email templates typically sent out for company events, such as a course/seminar/team building sign-up form, or with an attached downloadable file containing information about a policy change.
Devise your scenario by job specification and target that group of employees to whom it will be relevant. Use email templates they usually receive, then tweak them to make them sound believable. For instance, you could impersonate the Head of Finance and ask targeted employees for their invoice/ERP software credentials.
Phishing emails that contain offers for “free” stuff are bound to get most clicks, so make sure you test them too. Your employees should have enough common sense to know that nothing comes for free and should be suspicious upon seeing such offers.
They can be taught to check the underlying links by hovering over them, but make sure you instruct them to never click any suspicious links because they often are malicious.
Remember, every phishing campaign must be thoroughly planned as scammers are getting more sophisticated and creative, sending out very convincing emails. Therefore, you should make sure your templates target the right group of people in a way that is subtle and intriguing for them. That’s the only way you can test your employees’ awareness, so you get realistic results of your cybersecurity.
- Which scenarios should be used?
You can preview the attack templates in LUCY using the preview function. Please navigate to “setting/scenario templates” to see all available scenarios.
Make it look real or not?
It’s best to begin your phishing training with the basics. This way you can glean an idea of your employees’ initial level of awareness. To do this, use typos, poor language, bad formatting, etc. in the templates you send.
Easy examples include fake package shipments and incredible lottery wins, so start your campaign there. With training progression, you will notice higher report rates and lower click rates as your employees learn to spot the scams. Then you can up the level of complexity, and so on.
It’s good to know that emails which look as if sent from internal servers are more difficult to spot. Inherently, employees are likely to trust their colleagues or higher tier personnel.
Spear phishing attacks, which use fully customized templates, are usually very effective. However, you shouldn’t go all out with the first simulation round. Find the golden middle between spoofing the company logo or a manager’s email and use a predefined template. Once this scenario runs its course and your employees are better prepared, you can get more creative.
Always strive to create believable content. If your campaign includes a spoofed email from your financial department, make sure to use appropriate language, terminology, names, etc. So, don’t set up fake bank account verification requests to be sent from your IT staff, for instance. Also, don’t forget to keep the spoofed party in the loop before you begin the campaign.
Adapt the same strategies when sending spoofed external emails, and make sure you use your common sense. If you want to send out fake emails concerning income taxes, do it in tax season, and the holidays are best for using package delivery notification templates. And make sure you spoof real companies (FedEx, UPS, Amazon, etc.); this is a great way to measure employee awareness for actual phishing attacks.
Whatever strategy you decide to use, make the phishing attempts look as realistic as possible. This is the only way you can glean your employees’ awareness for real-world scams.
Finally, make sure you do not meddle with the copyrighted and trademarked logos of any private company or government agency. Those institutions will most certainly not welcome the usage of their logos even if it’s for fake phishing emails.
- Which level of attack simulations you want to start with (low level: easy to spot; high level: more sophisticated attacks)?
Please use the “+new” button to create a new template from scratch.
Fully customize templates: Create a copy of one of your own webpages (or supplier) https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=copy_web_page, optionally place some login form on top
https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=edit_landing_page#special_lucy_editor_shortcuts and make a scenario that is custom tailored for your company (example: “your marketing department created a section on the webpage where every employees has a personalized profile that website visitors can see. You can ask the employee to quickly check if he likes his picture/profile”.
Choose the right email sender domain
An important part of your phishing attempt is choosing the best mail sender domain from which the emails will be sent out. If you have spam filters in place, choose a domain that will normally pass through them. Only use this strategy if you want to allow an external third-party mail sender to spoof your own domain or the domain of a frequently used vendor. There isn’t much sense in using domains that would normally get filtered out via SPF protection – these will never make it to your employees’ inbox anyway and will be met with little cooperation from staff.
- Do you also want to spoof your own company mail domain or spoof a domain from an external third-party vendor?
Spoof a known domain/your own domain: use our spoofing check first to verify the technical possibility https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=mail_spoofing_test. If you spoof a known external brand, use a legal disclaimer https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=legal_aspects_of_phishing_spoofing_etc and make sure the user is redirected to the awareness directly after the phishing.
Choose what should happen if the users respond to attack simulations
For better statistics, catch all possible reply types, including “out-of-office” messages and “no-delivery reports.” Get feedback about the actual attack simulations to better analyze the results.
- Do you want to catch email replies?
- Do you want to “hide” the link in the message template?
Catch E-Mail replies: https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=response_detection&s=replies
Choose what should happen if the user is accessing the domain in the phishing simulation directly
Every phishing simulation you run will have a couple users who choose to type in the domain in the browser (sans the random identifier) instead of clicking the spoofed link. This may bring them to the software admin interface or show a random 404 error page. Make sure you know where they get redirected and adjust the page accordingly.
- What should happen if the recipient is checking the domain in the browser behind the random URL?
Create custom “homepage”: To prevent error messages from appearing or the end user from even coming to the login area of the admin console, you can create generic “homepages” within LUCY for the domains used in the phishing simulation. https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=not_found_pages_404&s=error#customize_error_per_domain
No custom homepage: make sure you at least customize the global 404 template https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=not_found_pages_404&s=error#customize_error_globally
Choose the right attack type
Phishing attacks don’t always come in email form. Many scams come through social media and even phone calls, so you will do good to train your employees to recognize possible threats.
Your training should encompass different phishing methods, so your employees will be well equipped for various attack types. It’s advisable that your first phishing template is more basic and easier to recognize, but make sure each iteration of your campaign becomes more sophisticated. Utilize tactics such as smishing, file-based attacks, social engineering, etc. that your employees will encounter in the real world.
- What attack types do you want to use in your phishing simulation (you can choose between hyperlink, data entry, download, execution or mixed)?
- Do you want to use email as the only delivery option or will you incorporate alternative methods as well (SMS, USB etc.)?
A list of all attack options is presented on this page: https://lucysecurity.com/test-employees/
Use a third-party brand or something familiar?
Most phishing emails come from spoofed institutions that are otherwise trustworthy. Attackers use well-known brands, companies, websites, etc. because they know users are very likely to click on them.
Therefore, you should choose which people to target with your phishing campaign and tailor your social engineering tactics accordingly to learn how likely your employees are to give in to a malicious email. We don’t recommend using third-party brands, unless the phishing simulation is for immediate testing.
A very wise decision is to spoof your own company as hackers will most certainly use the same method to attack your employees.
LUCY has employed a specialized legal company to investigate the question of legality. https://lucysecurity.com/legality-of-using-third-party-marks-in-phishing-simulations/. If you want to spoof your own organization in a phishing simulation, you can use the LUCY website cloner https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=copy_web_page and domain feature https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=domain_configuration#register_a_new_domain_through_lucy to make this appear realistic.
If and when to send the training for successful attacks
You can opt in to send your phishing training immediately after a user fails the attack simulation. They could be instantly redirected to the training if they clicked a spoofed link, submitted some credentials, or attempted to download a file. This approach will gain the user’s full attention, though they might warn their colleagues about the simulation.
Another option is to delay the training, but make sure you send it from a trustworthy email that is different from the one used in the phishing simulation.
- Do you want to include a training for users who fall for the attack simulation?
- Should the eLearning be delayed?
- What is the content/length/type of the desired follow up training?
Delay: use the awareness delay https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=automated_awareness_delay or scheduler https://www.lucysecurity.com/PS/doc/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=scheduler
Follow up training
In every test you plan and run, there will be low performers, that is, users who fail to recognize the phishing emails. Part of your post-simulation job is to help those employees learn to recognize the threats and respond accordingly. A good way to continue with those people is to follow up with additional courses in real-time scenarios where you can track their results, as well as onsite trainings.
Make sure you treat each employee with respect when discussing their low performance on a phishing test. If you patronize them, that will jeopardize their future communication with you, and you need them to trust you so they will come to you if they spot something fishy in their inbox.
If this is the employee’s first test fail, you can simply send them an e-mail noting their poor phishing test result. Make sure you mention how important cybersecurity is for the entire organization and offer additional materials to help them improve their awareness. Gently let them know that more phishing tests will follow, so they will have many more opportunities to show they are not a weak link in the system. Mention the “report phishing” button, if you have implemented it, or the email@example.com email that you set up for the purposes of scam reporting.
Sometimes there may be people, even a handful of them or more, who continuously fail to recognize a phishing threat. Don’t leave the matter unaddressed, but instead discuss it proactively. Give those users a tutorial explaining what phishing threats are and why they are dangerous for your company. Run some widely known examples from real life situations that have caused organizations tons of trouble and losses. It’s imperative that each of your employees recognizes the legitimacy of cyber threats and that they are very likely to be attacked at some point.
- Do you plan to provide additional training for low performers outside of LUCY?
For the time being of the test run, make sure all email addresses and page domains that you use in the simulated phishing email templates are whitelisted. Don’t forget to also adjust any internal company settings so that all simulation tests end up in your users’ inboxes. An important step you should not miss is testing the test on a few select emails, before sending it out to your employees.
If you’re not using a cloud-based spam filter, you would do best to simply whitelist the LUCY IP addresses and hostnames in your mail server. If this isn’t the case, whitelisting should be done by email header in your mail server and by IP address or hostname in your spam filter. Products and services, you use in your mail or web environment should also be adjusted to prevent issues with deliverability. Note that our support team will be available should you need assistance.
Most company mail servers and filters have rate limiting set up. This means that emails sent in bulk may be delivered slowly or get blocked altogether. Ensure your mail server and filter are set up so that the rate limiting rules are adjusted for the time you send out the phishing test emails. As an alternate scenario that isn’t recommended, you can turn off the limiting rate of your server and filter to ensure all users receive the phishing test email. But you have to turn it right back on.
- Do you have an email account that can be used for testing purposes?
You can perform a test run https://wiki.lucysecurity.com/doku.php?id=test_run in LUCY.
A great option to consider when sending out phishing simulation emails is scheduling. A scheduler allows you to plan test email delivery in a time frame of your choosing. Best practices include scheduling around weekends and vacations, not at night-time or Friday afternoon.
- Do you want to use a scheduler and if yes: what are the required rules?
When you run your simulation, make sure you can and do monitor it in real time in case something goes awry. Having this kind of understanding of your campaign will allow you to catch replies, out-of-office messages and NDR, and to track any issues that may arise.
*The LUCY platform allows you to set up view-only users, where real-time statistics can be monitored without access to configuration pages.
- Do you want to have view access for?
Make sure your report system works and consider how you want it set up in terms of format, length, and content of the reports.
- Do you want the reports in word, pdf, or raw format (CSV)?
- Do you want the reporting to be integrated in your monitoring (SIEM, SOC..) via API?
- What type of reports do you want (example: short management summary vs long report)?
- What is the desired report language?
- How should reports be delivered to you and in what frequency?
Follow up communication
After you run your campaign, make sure you send out explanatory emails a few days to a week later. The emails should contain information about the importance of the used scenario as well as the clues you expected your employees to notice.
Remember that positive feedback and consequence are the best ways to learn good behavior. So, set up a reward system for those employees who are able to spot the phishing clues and follow up by reporting the scams. Encouraging your staff will create trust in case of future threats – fake and real.
For those who fail the test, and there will always be such individuals, follow up with training and additional courses until the employees in question learn to recognize the threats and report them. Your company needs to be immune to cyber threats, and this involves all of your users.
- Do you plan to do a follow up communication?
Plan the next steps
Running a phishing simulation campaign has one main purpose: raising employee awareness to cyber threats. So, the first test is just the beginning. Build a baseline, reward high-performers, educate low-performers, and start planning your next scenario!
Consider saving the whole campaign as a template:
If any of your employees achieve outstanding results, reward them. Congratulate their success in an email, noting everything they did right (no click-throughs or data leaks, timely reporting, etc.) to keep the company safe from cyber threats. You can stimulate an entire department if their cumulative results rated best in the organization.
To bring things further, you can create a contest among departments to determine which one was the safest in a given period of time. As stimulation you could sponsor a lunch or dinner for the team with highest test and report results.
Don’t forget to re-phish your employees! No matter the employee’s score on the test, make sure you run more tests after you send out any training content. This will make for a successful awareness initiative across all departments. Follow up with low performers from previous campaigns and see if their scores have improved.
Remember that single phishing tests are just that. They won’t teach your employees the awareness behavior you want them to adapt. Therefore, regular campaigns should be maintained to both measure your employees’ awareness, and to keep their defenses high.