How Vital Is Phishing Awareness for the Security of Your Organization?

May 10, 2021

Any organization yearns to secure their digital data from theft and damage and employs dedicated security professionals that have a proven track record. The attentiveness of cybersecurity analysts against rapidly increasing cyberattacks helps businesses thrive. But, their comprehensive strategies fail when an unaware and untrained employee falls victim to social engineering attacks due to a lack of cybersecurity awareness.

The most common form of such attacks is phishing that aims to obtain sensitive information from their victims by making them believe that the threat actor is legitimate. Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) confirms that 22% of security breaches involved phishing last year. The regular staff of an organization needs proper security training and education to mitigate social engineering attacks. With cybersecurity awareness, employees can defend themselves against cyberattacks and secure their organization’s critical assets.

What Do You Mean by Cybersecurity Awareness?

Cybersecurity awareness could be defined as any user's knowledge regarding the security state of their device or digital presence and its possible risks arising due to the actions of external threat actors and sometimes their own mistake or negligence. The cybersecurity industry has always considered the users/human operators in the digital space to be both the first and the weakest defense line when faced with external threat factors. Organizations spend a considerable amount of resources and money on their applications and network software components to protect them from exploiting any existing or induced vulnerability. But many times, the vulnerability comes from the user’s side or other human elements rather than the technical one due to the lack of cybersecurity awareness. Hence, organizations must train their employees towards digital security through a security awareness program.

Why Is Cybersecurity Awareness Important?

Over the previous decade, organizations have noticed that only securing the technical elements is insufficient to protect their digital infrastructure from cyberattacks due to the continuous rise in phishing and social engineering activities. Hence, increasing their efforts towards cybersecurity awareness among their users and employees and making them aware of different phishing and scam attempts, and avoiding or mitigating such threats will help the organizations secure their data more effectively.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is one of the most prominent cybersecurity threats, with e-mail phishing being the primary vector for most malware-based attacks and intrusions. Though malware and ransomware pose a secures threat to information security through the compromise of system/network, their ability to deal with such damage to the system depends upon the success of a phishing attack. Phishing is mostly the initial phase for any sophisticated cyberattack and employs different modes for the conduct, the most prominent of which are listed below:

E-mail phishing

One of the most common vectors utilized during phishing attacks is e-mails, and the most common approach for conducting phishing through e-mails involves using a malicious URL. The threat actors entice their target to click on the URL. If successful, it either downloads malicious software (without their knowledge or consent) or redirects them to some site that may look legit but is designed to steal personal and sensitive information.

Spear phishing

This type of e-mail phishing is specially crafted and designed to target a specific group or person. The phishing messages are tailored to look legitimate, i.e., the attacker impersonates someone and appears as if they belong to a legitimate organization or group. Spear phishing is surging, with 65% of cases using spear phishing as the primary vector for malware deployment. As phishing attempts are customized, this method is known as spear phishing. Unlike regular phishing e-mails, in this method, the threat actors conduct reconnaissance, gathering related information about their victims in order to look less suspicious and increase their probability of success.


Whaling is a more specific type of spear phishing attack that targets senior executives (C-suite executives) and other high-profile people in an organization, as they generally tend to have a higher level of trust, access, and privileges within the organization's network.

Voice phishing

Not all phishing attacks require a fake website or e-mail. Calls and voice messages that claim to be from legitimate organizations such as your bank can scam users into revealing personal and sensitive information such as account numbers, PINs, passwords, etc. This type of phishing attack could also be referred to as Vishing.

Phishing attempts generally rely on a lack of cybersecurity awareness among their targets and a simple bulk mailing approach to conduct the attack. It is easy to implement and costs less. Even if 1 to 2 percent of the targeted users fall for these attacks, the resultant profit for the attacker is still beneficial due to the sheer size of the targeted database. By making attacks more specific, phishing appears to be more convincing and effective.

This impact is further augmented by using automation techniques, for example, using the address book of a compromised user and sending them bulk and automated phishing e-mails. Hence, as the mail filters recognize the phishing e-mail from a known and trusted email-id, the attack has succeeded in covering both the reach and authenticity criteria needed to further the cause of the threat actor. The customization and specificity differ concerning the target's value and privilege, i.e., the higher the value of the target, the more customized the spear phishing.

Threat actors look for the easiest way to gain access to an organization's network, and most often, the human element involved tends to provide the required vulnerability. Studies have reported that nearly 29% of the attacks that occurred in 2019 involved compromises via phishing e-mails, and nearly 45% of them involved BEC (Business Email Compromise), i.e., whaling.

Increase Awareness with EC-Council Aware App

Many different approaches exist that an organization can take to increase the awareness among their users and employees. But organizations of different sizes and belonging to different industries may come across completely different issues such as lack of time, workforce, experience, etc., when implementing these awareness programs. EC-Council Aware provides online security awareness training and continuous monitoring and assessment programs to increase security awareness against phishing attacks. Available in the form of an application, EC-Council Aware features various solutions related to cybersecurity awareness.

Cybersecurity awareness training and awareness programs incorporated within 'Aware App' help the individuals of an organization prepare against phishing attacks and educate them regarding security issues in a relatively likable way with the help of its gaming and simulation features. Most of its prominent features include:

  • Automatic enrollment
  • Customizable e-learning content
  • Customizable training certificates
  • Scheduled reminders
  • Upload your training content
  • Advanced & automated reporting

Aware provides its users with a plethora of videos and interactive resources to ensure a great learning experience. Many of its features are customizable, especially for the organizations that intend to use this application to train their employees; it allows the selection of customized themes scenarios relevant to the organization's industry. It contains multiple pre-designed modules and templates developed by experienced designers leveraging best practices such that it fastens the adaptation of security awareness while focusing on the work environment. Some of the general features include:

  • It helps you learn on the go while maintaining the required level of security awareness training
  • Creates a challenging environment enabling users to participate in live quiz sessions with their peers and friends while making the process fun to learn.
  • Provides virtual incentives such as the ‘Leader Board’ that shows which person or group is currently leading in the competition.
  • Provides a wide range of customizable templates for e-mail phishing simulations and a wide range of voices to choose from for vishing attacks to test employee's susceptibility to different social engineering attacks.
  • ‘CheckAPhish’ helps check your employee's awareness while providing you (the employers) with certain visibility into their organization's risk behavior.

Cybersecurity awareness is the critical solution for human error, which is involved in the success of any phishing attack. With proper security training programs, management and security professionals look forward to minimizing the probability of a cyberattack. It also protects organizational assets from unanticipated damage and loss.