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The crucial role of reporting suspicious emails to your security teams

Do you have a cybersecurity awareness training program in place, but no process for reporting and analyzing suspicious emails? Attacks are likely going unnoticed by IT and security teams. Learn how reporting suspicious emails can help detect and mitigate potential cyber threats.
By Eric Brynaert
Product Marketing Manager

It’s no secret that keeping your data safe is a bigger challenge now than ever. In today’s ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats, simply installing an antivirus or firewall is not enough to safeguard your or your organization’s data.  

In addition to implementing cybersecurity measures aimed at protecting their networks, systems, applications and devices, Canadian organizations must also actively prioritize comprehensive cybersecurity awareness training to safeguard sensitive information. One key aspect of this training is educating employees about the importance of reporting suspicious emails. The significance of reporting such emails, the potential risks they pose and the role employees play in strengthening an organization’s cybersecurity defenses cannot be understated. 

The growing cybersecurity threat landscape  

2023 has already been a year with massive developments on the cybersecurity front. With the expanding adoption of AI, increasingly emboldened state actors and the continued digitization of the workplace, Canadians and Canadian organizations are exposed to an increasing number of sophisticated cyber threats.  

Email-based attacks remain a common and potent method employed by malicious actors to deliver harmful payloads. While the way in which they work has not changed dramatically over the years, criminals’ abilities to scale and create more convincing attacks have been bolstered by technological advancements. Every Canadian organization is a potential target, with most already seeing phishing emails in their inboxes daily. Given how regular and devastating these attacks have become, ensuring employees recognize and report suspicious emails is crucial to mitigating these threats and preventing a potentially disastrous cybersecurity incident at your organization. 

Identifying suspicious emails  

First, employees need to be trained to identify the hallmarks of suspicious emails. These may include unfamiliar senders, unexpected attachments or links, poor grammar or spelling, or urgent requests for information. While many of us might think that we can easily spot all phishing emails, they often skillfully mimic legitimate communications, making detection challenging. By honing users’ skills through training and simulation, they can learn how to recognize a wide range of phishing attacks from the rudimentary to the more sophisticated, protecting themselves and your organization.  

For a few tips on how to identify suspicious emails, check out our blog article What is phishing? How to protect yourself from scams. 

Why reporting suspicious emails matters 

If employees are trained in how to identify suspicious emails, they are far less likely to click on them. But the real benefits of a mature cybersecurity awareness training program come when employees regularly report suspicious emails in their inboxes to their IT security teams. This proactive approach can prevent attackers from gaining access to crucial systems and sensitive data, averting potentially significant financial and reputational damage. Let’s look at how.  

Strengthening incident response 

Reporting suspicious emails does not just help mitigate the immediate risk of a data breach, but also serves as valuable input for incident response teams. By analyzing reported emails, security professionals can identify emerging trends, patterns and the techniques employed by attackers. This information enables organizations to enhance their defenses, update security protocols and educate employees about evolving threats. Furthermore, it helps incident response teams in devising effective countermeasures, such as blocking malicious domains or IP addresses, and creating targeted awareness campaigns. 

Creating a positive cybersecurity culture 

Incorporating the habit of reporting suspicious emails fosters a security-conscious culture within organizations. When employees feel empowered and encouraged to report potential threats without fear of retribution, they become active participants in cybersecurity efforts. By emphasizing the importance of reporting, organizations demonstrate their commitment to creating a safe and resilient digital environment. This, in turn, leads to a heightened sense of responsibility among employees and promotes a collective effort to protect critical assets. 

Encouraging reporting: incentives and recognition 

To encourage employees to report suspicious emails, organizations can implement incentive programs and recognition schemes. Offering rewards or acknowledgments to those who actively take part in reporting helps create a positive and engaging environment. Additionally, organizations should emphasize that reporting is not a sign of failure or incompetence but a crucial step in maintaining a robust cybersecurity posture. This encouragement fosters a culture of accountability and vigilance, where employees are proactive in safeguarding their organization’s digital assets. 

Making sure your employees report suspicious emails  

Reporting suspicious emails is a crucial component of cybersecurity awareness training. By empowering employees to recognize and report potential threats, organizations can fortify their defenses against email-based attacks. The act of reporting not only mitigates the risk of data breaches but also strengthens incident response capabilities and cultivates a security-conscious culture. Through comprehensive training and awareness programs, coupled with incentives and recognition for reporting, organizations can foster a proactive and vigilant workforce. Highlighting the importance of reporting suspicious emails proves organizations’ commitment to cybersecurity; it creates a collaborative environment where everyone plays an active role in protecting sensitive information and maintains a resilient digital infrastructure. 

Want to learn more about an awareness training platform built just for Canadian organizations? Check out CIRA Cybersecurity Awareness Training today! 

About the author
Eric Brynaert

Eric is a Product Marketing Manager with CIRA Cybersecurity Services. His background in digital marketing has led him to appreciate the vital role data plays for Canadian organizations and individuals, and the need to keep it safe. Eric has an MBA in International Business from Sup de Co La Rochelle.