The Human factor in Email Security

Mailspike Technologies By Mailspike Technologies • March 23, 2023

With the majority of security breaches caused by employee error, the human factor cannot be ignored when defining your email security protocols and policies and implementing your cybersecurity training programs. 

When it comes to email security, protecting your employees from threats and attacks shouldn’t be your only concern. The reality is that you also need to protect your organization from employees displaying careless email behavior. According to the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2022, 90% of security breaches are caused by human error. Therefore, insider risk cannot be ignored.

Optimizing existing cybersecurity training courses

The problem with many cybersecurity training programs is that they’re not engaging or interactive enough. Many are too long and don’t capture employees’ attention spans, especially those who have been pulled from their tasks and spend their time in training thinking about getting back to their work. Shorter sessions that are conducted regularly are more likely to help employees retain information.

For employees to absorb cybersecurity training, they need dynamic programs that immerse them in threat scenarios. Slideshow presentations and videos are not enough to engage employees and demonstrate the negative impacts of a breach. Simulate a crisis scenario during training by deliberately making a mistake and showing the impacts.

Consider creating short exercises for employees that test their actions and behaviors when receiving emails. Create mock tests with external URLs and attachments. Coach employees that make repeated mistakes; create a policy that sanctions employees that continue to make the same errors despite continuous training. Evaluate retention and refine training programs that address learning gaps.

Increasing phishing awareness

With phishing as one of the biggest threats that organizations face today, leadership should emphasize the impacts of failing to spot a phishing attempt. Educate employees on the various phishing trends and techniques, such as invoice phishing, payment/delivery scams, spear phishing, and business email compromise (BEC).

When conducting phishing training, simulate tests with emails based on real phishing emails. Customize the email’s content and test to depict the kind of phishing email your specific organization is likely to receive, such as an email that appears to come from an executive within the company or a request from the purchasing department to pay an invoice. Teach employees about the importance of double-checking the email sender to ensure it’s not from a look-alike domain. Create a process for when employees may suspect that an email from a superior or an executive could be a potential BEC attack.

You should also have a training manual that employees can access anytime and remotely so they can refer to it whenever they suspect they’ve been targeted. The manual should include policies, such as what qualifies as sensitive company information, rules on securely sharing shared passwords, and immediate actions to take when employees realize they’ve made a mistake that threatens cybersecurity.

Unfortunately, employees can often make mistakes, carelessly clicking a malicious link or attachment that introduces threats to the company’s systems. Therefore, the way in which employees respond to emails is crucial to the prevention of cybercrime against a company. Rather than accept the unpredictability of employee behavior, be proactive about spreading awareness and increasing training that not only helps protect employees from attackers but also protects themselves from careless mistakes. To learn more, contact us. 


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