Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, Steve Sheng, Alessandro Acquisti, Lorrie Cranor, and Jason Hong


APWG eCrime Researcher’s Summit (eCrime)


January 2008


Prior laboratory studies have shown that PhishGuru, an embedded training system, is an effective way to teach users to identify phishing scams. PhishGuru users are sent simulated phishing attacks and trained after they fall for the attacks. In this current study, we extend the PhishGuru methodology to train users about spear phishing and test it in a real world setting with employees of a Portuguese company. Our results demonstrate that the findings of PhishGuru laboratory studies do indeed hold up in a real world deployment. Specifically, the results from the field study showed that a large percentage of people who clicked on links in simulated emails proceeded to give some form of personal information to fake phishing websites, and that participants who received PhishGuru training were significantly less likely to fall for subsequent simulated phishing attacks one week later. This paper presents some additional new findings. First, people trained with spear phishing training material did not make better decisions in identifying spear phishing emails compared to people trained with generic training material. Second, we observed that PhishGuru training could be effective in training other people in the organization who did not receive training messages directly from the system. Third, we also observed that employees in technical jobs were not different from employees with nontechnical jobs in identifying phishing emails before and after the training. We conclude with some lessons that we learned in conducting the real world study.

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