Awareness training is key to e-mail security

Issue 3 2021 Cyber Security

Awareness training should be actively deployed to complement organisations’ efforts to secure their e-mail systems, says François van Hirtum, CTO at Obscure Technologies. This is because hackers are increasingly targeting people as security technologies become more effective.

“The ‘2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report’ found that 94% of all breaches are the result of people having been targeted successfully. People are always the last line of defence and if your people aren’t properly trained and aware, your data and systems will always be vulnerable,” he says. “Having the right training programme in place is obviously critical and general training needs to be complemented by targeted training for those who are most at risk.”

For example, phishing is a well-used technique for gaining access into corporate systems. Ponemon’s ‘Cost of phishing’ study revealed that the average 10 000-person organisation spends up to $3.8 million on preventing phishing, while the Aberdeen Group puts the average cost of a successful phishing attack in the region of $136 000.

Van Hirtum says that security training for employees must be functional, specific and ongoing. This means that general awareness training needs to be supplemented by training for those individuals deemed to be most at risk, given that cybercriminal syndicates identify specific targets. For example, the CFO’s personal assistant or a payroll clerk would be prime targets because they offer a way into the financial heart of the company and yet might not realise this. Such individuals need specific training about the kind of attacks that could be launched, how to spot them and what to do when they occur. In addition, this training needs to be updated as the threat landscape changes over time.

At present, for example, up to 80% of phishing e-mails contain a reference to Covid as a way to lure recipients to click on links.

“Current threats and how to spot them need to be constantly brought to at-risk individuals’ attention,” Van Hirtum says. “The truth is that e-mail security is now very important for any organisation, no matter its size. As always, having the right technology in place is critical.”

Obscure Technologies was recently appointed main distributor of Proofpoint, which offers an integrated suite of cloud-based solutions to stop targeted threats, safeguard customers’ data and make their users more resilient against cyberattacks.

Proofpoint offers sophisticated, automated analysis of a client’s e-mails to identify individuals who handle sensitive information and would thus be targets. The software will then create customised training for each individual and then test their skills.

A key benefit is that Proofpoint is available as a subscription-based service, making world-class e-mail protection available to SMEs as well as corporates. “With true month-to-month billing, Proofpoint is a totally scalable offering. This is particularly convenient for our channel partners, who can thus add customers at will. Moreover, unlike many other global software providers, the price is not dollar-denominated with all the risk that implies,” Van Hirtum concludes.

For more information contact Obscure Technologies, +27 12 941 2032,,

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