Security Awareness Training – 8 Tips to Embrace a Zero Trust Mindset

Are you familiar with the techniques used by cybercriminals to leverage ANY employee and breach your security?

Hackers understand that employees are often the weakest link in an organization’s security. That’s why 98% of cyber attacks rely on some type of social engineering, costing companies $billions every year.

Vishing. Baiting. Pretexting. 

Are you familiar with these new Cyber criminal techniques that can leverage ANY connected employee to breach your security? 

With many employees working remotely, IT networks have become even more vulnerable to cyber-attack, especially when users connect over unsecure Wi-Fi and/or Home Networks with their personal devices.

While users are regularly encouraged to keep their anti-virus up-to-date, 6% percent of users NEVER receive any type of security awareness training, while another 33% receive only once per year or when they join the company.

Every employee should also become familiar with the latest phishing and ransomware strategies to prevent becoming that weak link. 

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Find out if your email or phone has already been involved in a data breach

The website, "Have I been Pwned?," allows you to type in any email or phone you want to test. The answer is immediate, providing a list of data breaches involved.

The Basics of Social Engineering

From an IT Security perspective, the term “social engineering” refers to cybercriminals using any number of psychological tricks to get users to perform actions (click on an email or link) or divulge personal or confidential information.

While technical hackers seek vulnerabilities in the networks or software, social engineering cybercriminals exploit an end user’s tendency to trust.

The most common types include:

Phishing (or Spear Fishing)

Phishing is the most common type of social engineering attack. Hackers pose as a trusted source (a friend, boss, colleague, bank official, government agency, etc.) and concoct a seemingly logical scenario for handing over login credentials or other sensitive personal data.

The cybercriminal may obtain your email address from a compromised email account or web directory and then go “Phishing,” sending general emails to everyone, or go “spear fishing,” personalizing an email for just you. The email will contain:


Another type of phishing, using voice instead of text. The cybercriminal recreates an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system of a trusted company, attaches it to a toll-free number and tricks you into responding to the cell phone prompts with your personal information.

smart phone on stand with apps showing, pretexting


Pretexting is a social engineering technique of presenting oneself as someone else in a fictional situation in order to obtain private information.

This may be another phishing exploit, or use baiting techniques, but it’s all about developing a believable story, which may include:

Urgent request for help. Your ’friend’ is stuck in another country and needs money to get home or to pay a fine. Or the CEO sends an email titled “URGENT!!!!!,” with a message containing spelling mistakes.

Ask you to donate to a fundraiser, or some other cause. Disaster relief, political campaign, or charity needs money and/or your personal information to keep you informed.

Notify you that you’re a ‘winner.’ This phishing attack claims to be from a lottery, or a dead relative, or the millionth person to click on their site, etc. In order to receive your “prize” you will need to provide your bank routing number along with other details to steal your identity.

Pose as tech support or other professional. Also considered a “Quid Pro Quo” attack, the cyber-criminal is responding to an issue, and requests information, and/or a download of a scanner (malicious software) to scan your system. The criminal may be quite helpful and provide productivity tips while stealing your identity.

Business Email Compromise

One form of pretexting, called Business E-Mail Compromise (BEC) uses a variety of tactics to con the company into wiring funds. The cybercriminal group likely gains access through spear-phishing and/or malware, and then spends weeks or months discovering the organization’s billing process, vendor payments, and the CEO’s email style and travel schedule.

Then when the CEO is out of office, the scammers send a targeted email posing as the CEO to the finance officer (bookkeeper, accountant, controller, or CFO ) requesting an immediate wire transfer. The vendor will sound familiar though the account numbers will be slightly different.

If undetected, the initial and subsequent requests will cost the company thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.


This type of social engineering scheme dangles malicious devices inside a seemingly harmless carrier, hoping someone will “take the bait.”

These schemes are often found on Peer-to-Peer sites offering a recent movie, or music to download, but they’re also found on social networking sites, job posting sites, online auctions and e-commerce sites.

Other types of social engineering may include creating distrust, or starting conflicts by altering private or corporate communications

There are literally thousands of variations to social engineering attacks, limited only by the criminal’s imagination.

I’ve found that using the term “Zero Trust” can feel wrong in organizations that encourages trust and teamwork. The reality is that the Cyber Criminal element that exists outside of our organizations is trying to do everything they can to LOOK LIKE and ACT LIKE they are part of our organization. Personally, I tell each employee to use a second secure channel (known phone, text, or secure messaging) to confirm anything related to security or finance that comes from me electronically (which could be email, text, or other means).
Alan McDonald
President and CEO, AllConnected

8 Tips for Adopting "Zero Trust"

In IT-speak, “hardening” is the process of securing a system by reducing its surface of vulnerability. Protection is provided in layers and each level requires a unique method of security.

For your organization, AllConnected recommends Cisco Umbrella as your personal firewall, blocking all known phishing and ransomware coming in, and DNS checking to block malicious software and links going out.

To authenticate with that network, we recommend Cisco Duo Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) application provides effective personal security.

Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) provides global threat intelligence, advanced sandboxing, and real-time malware scanning and blocking to prevent breaches. You could also level-up your email with Advanced Threat Protection.

Then for your personal social engineering, we recommend a “zero trust” policy. Don’t assume any email or link inside or outside your organization is okay. Verify everything.

Hardening Your OS

Consider Ongoing Security Awareness Training for Your Employees

Are you interested in an program to regularly test and train your employees to ensure they develop a Zero Trust mindset?  AllConnected can assist your organization in testing the ‘cyberattack readiness’ of your end-users, launching simulated attacks, and determining the best areas to focus on for end-user training. Get in touch with us using the form below.  

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Security Awareness Training

AllConnected &
Barracuda PhishLine

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