April 21, 2016 By Douglas Bonderud 2 min read

Phishing is a lucrative industry for cybercriminals; even a single successful breach could net big money or millions of compromised records. According to CFO, more refined variants such as spear phishing or whaling, which rely on emails supposedly sent by C-suite executives, have already racked up $2.3 billion and are the subject of a new FBI warning.

Despite the rising number of attacks and jump in potential losses, however, British firm AXELOS reported that good security is hard to find in the U.K. As noted by SecurityWeek, while 99 percent of senior management staff know security awareness training is critical to minimizing impact, less than half are doing more than the bare minimum. The result: phish on the hook. How do companies clear the water?

The Current Cyber Defenses

Companies aren’t going in blind; almost all use some kind of defense mechanism to lower the chances of a successful breach. Among the most popular defenses are tools such as Spamhaus, which captures around 90 percent of all malicious mail. Supplemented with specific phishing lists, it’s possible to get this figure up near 100 percent. But since even one breach can cost millions, near isn’t good enough.

ITProPortal, meanwhile, noted that 82 percent of companies are still using traditional cybersecurity training methods such as computer-based training and e-learning. More than half (54 percent) only require employees to take an annual refresher course and aren’t developing new training in response to emerging threats or the actual risks associated with specific corporate roles. This creates a defense strategy that catches low-hanging fruit but lets truly malicious attacks slip through and wreak havoc.

Changing the Game With Security Awareness Training

So how do companies address the problem of baited hooks and barbed nets in email waters? It starts with a shift in security awareness training.

Rather than using automated defense systems, which take the burden off employees and place it on autonomous processes, companies need to respect the cybercriminal mandate: Enter wherever is easiest. Right now, the easy point of entry is employee email; fool one individual into clicking on a malicious link or downloading a file and attackers get access to the entire network.

One of the best ways to handle this new batch of threats is through the use of simulated phishing attacks. Used by 70 percent of American companies but just 31 percent of their U.K. counterparts, according to SecurityWeek, these simulated phishers are relatively low-cost and provide critical insight into the effectiveness of current security training. If multiple users fall prey to the same tactic, companies can change their overall training strategy.

If specific users aren’t successful, they can receive on-the-spot refreshers in addition to long-term remedial training. As noted by a recent Ponemon report, this type of training typically costs less than $5 per staff member but can offer returns of 20 to 50 times that amount — not a bad deal considering the average cost of a data breach is $3.7 million.

The current slate of security awareness training tools aren’t getting the job done. Companies need to go beyond automated keep-away tactics and actively engage users to identify safe waters and damaging phishing emails.

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