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The Cautionary Tale of The DNC’s False Phishing Alarm

The recent DNC “false alarm” is a cautionary tale. While there can be value is performing phishing tests against your organization, they are not without potential pitfalls. And, real or simulated, what lessons can your business learn from this example? Phishing tests are designed to help your users decipher good email from bad. While there is still some debate on the long-term efficacy of this approach, one thing that is vital is that the entire security organization be aware of the test and respond accordingly. In the case of the DNC “false alarm”, it appears there was a distinct lack of communication with the affected groups, leading to the false alarm. Not only will a phishing test challenge your users, it should also challenge your security organization and their response processes. As a simulation, the security personnel must respond accordingly, including knowing when to “stop” the defined response processes. We should absolutely give credit to the various DNC groups for responding as though this was an actual attack. But a little communication goes a long way and could have allayed a good amount of concern (let alone the media attention). By some accounts, over 90% of breaches start with a phishing email. Why? Because phishing works. While organizations have had email security solutions in place for 20 years, they have taken a back seat to more sexy solutions like Endpoint Detection and Response or next-gen AV. Email security has achieved “good enough” status while security time and budget is spent searching for the latest holy grail. The cybercriminal underground knows this and continue finding ways to adapt phishing to bypass the latest email security defenses. It’s a game of one-upmanship where the bad guys only have one task – to bypass email security defenses – while the internal security team must defend on multiple fronts. Phishing tests have become the defense du jour to help train user’s ability to identify malicious email. What phishing testing has also done is started down the path of adopting defense-in-depth for email security. Defense-in-depth is a long-established security strategy designed to protect your organization across all potential attack fronts. Normally organizations…

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