EMPLOYEE SECURITY INDEX (ESI®): The security awareness indicator
What is the Employee Security Index (ESI®)?
The ESI® is an IT security key indicator and makes the IT security awareness of your employees measurable. It was scientifically developed and offers a high comparability and reliability due to its standardization.
Against what, under what conditions and to what degree are you safe? This question poses great challenges when it comes to securing the company and investment decisions. IT-Seal has developed a benchmark, the 'Employee Security Index' (ESI®), for the area of social engineering and phishing awareness.
The Employee Security Index is based on a standardized framework that takes into account different types of attackers by simulating many different attacks with different preparation times. For this purpose, hundreds of different attacks with different levels of difficulty are created and sent (patented) to our customers fully automatically. We make sure that each participant receives a different e-mail and thus exclude the corridor radio – which effectively increases security but falsifies the measurement considerably.
Why are we doing this?
Individual phishing simulations can quickly lead you astray: click rates can vary greatly from e-mail to e-mail - this is especially true when internal information is used. Depending on the subject, writing style, specific sending time, design or sender, employees either click quickly or not at all. It is easy to create a phishing e-mail that 80 percent of employees click on or one that only 2 percent got tricked form it. However, this does not yet allow a statement to be made about how good the employees really are, but only about how well the phishing e-mail fitted the bill. In order to be able to make a statement about how good the security behavior of the employees really is, it is therefore necessary to carry out a large number of different attack simulations. This is the only way to filter out individual "lucky hits". The results of these many different attacks are stored accordingly in the ESI® illustrated in the colours of the traffic light.
How does the Employee Security Index (ESI®) work?
The ESI® makes security awareness training measurable based on scientific data.
Standardization as the basis for measurability
To make security awareness measurable, a realistic simulation of attacks is indispensable. Individual attacks should also be comparable with each other - only then can a measurement over a longer period of time provide information about the development of security awareness.
In order to make social engineering attacks comparable, we classify them into different categories. The decisive factor here is the preparation time that a criminal must invest in the preparation and execution of an attack scenario.
This consists, for example, of the procurement of information (OSINT), technical preparation, copying of designs (clone phishing), and the provision of the infrastructure. Thus, five categories can be divided, each of which corresponds to a preparation time of approx. 1, 3, 10, 20 and 40 hours.
Procedure for determining the ESI®
- Each member of an employee group receives several individual spear phishing emails in different levels of difficulty
- The reaction (the behaviour of security) of the employees is measured
- The behavior regarding the different levels of difficulty is set in relation to an "exemplary" test group, which is assigned an ESI® of 90
- With a security behavior with twice the error rate compared to the "exemplary" test group, an ESI® of 80 is achieved, with a three times as high error rate an ESI® of 70 and so on
Critical average level shows need for action
An analysis of more than 75,000 simulated e-mails provides a revealing insight into the security behavior of individual departments, as shown in the figure on the left across the company.
All test groups show critical phishing awareness, with an average Employee Security Index of 46.2. While the HR, IT and finance departments perform above average across the company, the managers, assistants and the C-level stand out at the lower end.