State of the Phish: Truths and Consequences

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Over the past few years, the topic of phishing consequence models — i.e., formal ramifications for employees who fall for multiple phishing attacks — is one we’ve been hearing more and more infosec professionals talking about. We’ve explored the “carrot vs. stick” conundrum on our blog, and our Security Advisor Alan Levine, a former Fortune 500 CISO with considerable experience in managing cybersecurity teams and programs, has discussed the issue with other industry experts at our Wisdom Conference and in a SecureWorld webinar.

But we also wanted to know what organizations are doing in practice. And so … we asked.

45% of Organizations Use Consequence Models

For our 2018 State of the Phish™ Report, we surveyed our database of infosec professionals about a range of topics, including consequence models. Almost half — 45% — said their end users face ramifications for repeated clicks on phishing tests.

As a follow-up question, we asked what consequences are in place for these so-called “repeat offenders,” and we found that a fair number of organizations go so far as terminating employees who make multiple cybersecurity mistakes:


Source: Quarterly surveys of infosec professionals for the 2018 State of the Phish Report

We did allow “Other” as a response for this question, and more than 30% of respondents chose to specify additional consequences that are part of their organization's escalation path. The most common responses included the following:

  • Additional computer-based training
  • Counseling from the IT department
  • One-on-one training from the IT department
  • Entry into the organization’s formal discipline process

How Does Your Organization Handle Repeat Offenders?

We would love to hear your thoughts about escalation paths and how your organization is handling repeat offenders. Find us on Twitter at @WombatSecurity and tell us whether you share our affinity for positive reinforcement, favor a consequence-based approach, or prefer a mix of the two.





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