Phishing

The best 9 phishing simulators for employee security awareness training (2023)

Andrei Antipov
July 27, 2023 by
Andrei Antipov

The title of this article was supposed to be “Top 9 free phishing simulators.” However, after much searching, trying, visiting broken links, filling out forms and signing up for mailing lists, it became clear that the combination of “free” and “top” narrows the selection to very few real choices for phishing training.

The final list does not include any fishy (pardon the pun) apps that let you create a fake website or phishing site for collecting data. Nor are we including any free managed campaigns offered by so many now popular phishing services. We wanted to focus on tools that allow you to run a phishing campaign that lets you create and send at least one phishing email to an actual recipient — in most cases, those are part of a free trial.

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Note: Want more than just a phishing simulator? Check out our article on the best security awareness training.

Basically, if you are looking for a free phishing simulator for your company, you are down to three choices:

  1. Simple tools that will allow you to craft a simple email message and send it to one or several recipients using a specified mail server. Features like reporting or campaign management are often not an option, making them more like penetration testing tools than phishing simulators.

  2. Open-source phishing platforms. This growing and interesting category makes up the majority of our list. You get all the usual benefits with open-source, such as feature-rich free versions and community support. But all the usual shortcomings are also there: tools like this usually require some significant technical skills to install, configure and run. Additionally, most of them are Linux-based. So, if words like “missing dependencies” don’t sound like an alien tongue, this category may interest you. Otherwise, there is the third choice.

  3. Demo versions of commercial products. The majority of commercial phishing simulators are offered as software-as-a-service (SaaS). With those, you usually get the best of all worlds: ease of use, rich features (including reporting), technical support, etc. With phishing being among the top cybersecurity risks and commercial phishing simulators popping up like mushrooms after rain, finding a free demo seems easy. That is until you try. In most cases, the best you can get after jumping through various hoops (filling out a request form, subscribing to a mailing list, confirming your email address, etc.) is a free campaign managed by the vendor or a demo account with so many limitations that it doesn’t even give you a good understanding of the full version’s capabilities, let alone providing you with an actual tool that you can effectively use to create and manage multiple phishing campaigns. The most likely scenario for SaaS phishing platforms is a scheduled demonstration, which may or may not result in you obtaining access to a version of the product that you can use. There is, however, an exception to this rule, which you will see on top of our list.

Top nine phishing simulators

1. Infosec IQ

Infosec IQ by Infosec includes a free Phishing Risk Test that allows you to launch a simulated phishing campaign automatically and receive your organization’s phishing rate in 24 hours.

You can also access Infosec IQ’s full-scale phishing simulation tool, PhishSim, to run sophisticated simulations for your entire organization. PhishSim contains 1,000+ phishing templates, attachments and data entry landing pages. PhishSim templates are added weekly, allowing you to educate employees on the most topical phishing scams. Want to build your own phishing emails? PhishSim has a drag-and-drop template builder so you can build your phishing campaigns to your exact specification.

Signing up for a free Infosec IQ account gets you full access to the PhishSim template library and education tools. Still, you’ll need to speak with an Infosec IQ representative for the ability to launch a free PhishSim campaign.

Infosec offers a FREE personalized demo of the Infosec IQ simulated phishing and security awareness platform. Click here to get started.

2. Gophish

As an open-source phishing platform, Gophish gets it right. Most operating systems support it, installation is as simple as downloading and extracting a ZIP folder, the interface is simple and intuitive, and the features, while limited, are thoughtfully implemented. Users are easily added, either manually or via bulk CSV importing. Email templates are easy to create (there aren’t any included, though, with a community-supported repository initiated) and modifying (using variables allows for easy personalization) creating campaigns is a straightforward process. Reports are pleasant to look at and can be exported to CSV format with various levels of detail. Major drawbacks: no awareness education components and no campaign scheduling options.

3. LUCY

LUCY provides a hassle-free download of the platform's free (community) version. The web interface is attractive (if a bit confusing), and there are a lot of features to explore: LUCY is designed as a social engineering platform that goes beyond phishing.

The awareness element is addressed with interactive modules and quizzes, but the community version of LUCY has too many limitations to be effectively used in an enterprise environment. Some important features are unavailable under community license, such as exporting campaign stats, performing file (attachment) attacks, and, most importantly, campaign scheduling options. With that, the free version of LUCY gives you a taste of what the paid version is capable of but doesn’t go much further.

4. SpeedPhish Framework (SPF)

Created by Adam Compton. SPF includes many features that allow you to quickly configure and perform effective phishing attacks, including data entry attack vectors (3 website templates are included, with the possibility of using custom templates as well). While a tech-savvy security professional can have a lot of fun with SPF and will be able to run phishing campaigns against multiple targets, it is still mainly a pentesting tool, with many great features (such as email address gathering) being of little importance for someone performing internal phishing tests.

5. Social-Engineer Toolkit (SET)

Developed by TrustedSec, SET was designed for performing various social engineering attacks. For phishing, SET allows for sending spear-phishing emails, running mass mailer campaigns, and some more advanced options, such as flagging your message with high importance and adding a list of target emails from a file. SET is Python based, with no GUI. As a penetration testing tool, it is very effective. As a phishing simulation tool, it is very limited and includes no reporting or campaign management features.

6. Phishing Frenzy

While this open-source Ruby on Rails application is designed as a penetration testing tool, it has many features that could make it an effective solution for internal phishing campaigns. Perhaps the most important feature is the ability to view detailed campaign stats and easily save the information to a PDF or an XML file. You can probably guess the “however” part that’s coming up: Phishing Frenzy is a Linux-based application, with installation not to be handled by a rookie.

7. Usecure - uPhish

uPhish is a component of the Usecure suite that focuses on addressing the growing threat of phishing attacks. A free phishing simulation can be launched as part of a 14-day free trial to the uPhish platform, which consists of a range of phishing templates that can be customized to mimic real-world attack scenarios. These simulated phishing campaigns help organizations assess their vulnerability to such attacks and identify areas that require improvement. Additionally, uPhish provides detailed analytics and reports to measure employee progress. 

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8. Sophos - Sophos Phish Threat

Sophos Phish Threat is a security solution that helps organizations protect themselves against phishing attacks. Users must set up a free trial to learn more about simulated phishing campaigns. Sophos Phish Threat provides real-time reporting and analytics, which enables businesses to track their progress and identify trends in phishing attacks. They can use these insights to strengthen security measures and keep up with evolving threats. 

9. King Phisher

King Phisher’s features are plentiful, including the ability to run multiple campaigns simultaneously, geolocation of phished users and web cloning capabilities. A separate template repository contains templates for both messages and server pages. The user interface is clean and simple. What is not that simple, however, is installation and configuration. King Fisher server is only supported on Linux, with additional installation and configuration steps required depending on the flavor and existing configuration. However, it is no longer being maintained as of November 2022.

Honorable mentions 

SafeTitan – Security awareness and phishing training 

SafeTitan Security Awareness and Phishing Training is a comprehensive program designed to equip people with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves from cyber threats. This training covers various topics, including identifying phishing attempts, understanding common phishing techniques and best practices for securing personal information online. The program uses interactive modules and real-life scenarios to engage learners and reinforce key concepts.

Phished.io – Phishing and smishing simulations 

Phished.io is a comprehensive phishing and smishing simulation platform that helps organizations strengthen cybersecurity defenses. It offers a range of simulated attacks, including phishing emails and text messages, to test the awareness and vulnerability of employees. These simulated attacks are designed to mimic real-world phishing and smishing attempts, providing a realistic training experience. The platform also provides detailed analytics and reporting.

Phishingbox - Phishing simulator

Phishingbox is a brand that specializes in providing phishing simulators. A phishing simulator is a tool that helps organizations test and strengthen their defenses against phishing attacks. It simulates different types of phishing attacks, such as emails, links or attachments, in a controlled and safe environment. Phishing box offers a range of features and options to suit the needs of different organizations. They provide user-friendly interfaces, customizable templates and detailed reporting.

FAQs about phishing simulators 

What is a phishing simulation? 

Phishing is where a malicious attacker assumes a false identity to fool unsuspecting employees or online users into revealing sensitive information. The term comes from the word “fishing” and is an analogy to how these attacks cast a wide net — mostly through emails — designed to make users think they are a trusted party.   

A phishing simulation is a test version of this that shows the strength of your security protocols and your employees’ level of awareness. In a phishing simulation, an email designed to look and read like a real phishing attack is sent to your employees to see how many click or interact with it versus how many report it through the correct channels.   

Do phishing simulations work?

While phishing attacks are on the rise, the good news is that the phishing simulations and training tools available have improved their effectiveness. Using our training resources, like simulated phishing tests, Infosec IQ customers experienced 75% faster reporting times of suspicious emails and an 80% improvement in the number of simulated phishing emails reported.

Why use phishing simulation tools? 

Phishing simulation tools are essential in any organization’s arsenal of cybersecurity strategies. They serve a dual purpose. First, they test employees' responses to realistic phishing emails, offering insight into the organization's vulnerability to such threats. Second, they provide instant training for individuals who fall for these simulated attacks, enhancing their ability to recognize and report real phishing threats in the future.   

Getting started with phishing simulations might seem daunting, but with a straightforward plan and the right tools from Infosec, it’s possible to set up an effective phishing training program quickly. These phishing simulation tools often provide examples and additional resources to facilitate learning and improve cybersecurity awareness.  

How much does a phishing simulator cost? 

The cost of phishing simulator tools can vary significantly based on the features they offer, the size of your organization and the number of users. Many of the options listed above are completely free but are limited in scope or require some degree of technical acumen to make them work effectively. Other plans may include security awareness training for your employees and additional features like reporting on cybersecurity culture and other key metrics. As one example, you can learn more about Infosec IQ pricing here.

How often should you do phishing simulations? 

It’s often best to send at least one simulated phishing email monthly to keep employees alert and aware. However, the schedule can be tailored to suit your organization's needs, with campaigns organized quarterly or even annually. The program's flexibility allows it to be adjusted to best serve your cybersecurity objectives.   

How to simulate and prevent phishing attacks? 

Use one of the tools listed above to send your first simulated phishing email and educate your workforce on what they can expect from a phishing attack. If you sign up for Infosec’s Free Phishing Risk Test, you will follow these steps:

  1. Select your phishing template

  2. Add recipients to receive the simulation

  3. Launch your test

  4. Assess your phishing risks

You can use that baseline phish rate to build out your training or partner with a vendor to help educate your employees to become more cyber-secure.

See Infosec IQ in action

See Infosec IQ in action

From gamified security awareness to award-winning training, phishing simulations, culture assessments and more, we want to show you what makes Infosec IQ an industry leader.

How to improve an organization’s phishing simulation program? 

Improving an organization’s phishing simulation program will look different for different companies. Some of the best strategies are regularly scheduling employee training and diversifying your methods. You can use Infosec’s phishing simulation tools to test employees, schedule different phishing simulation campaigns, and measure and adapt those campaigns to optimize their effectiveness.  

How do major companies defend against phishing attacks? 

Major companies defend against phishing attacks primarily through continuous employee education and proactive measurement of their cybersecurity practices with phishing simulations. The strategy includes immediate, relevant training when employees engage with simulated phishing emails, instilling secure behaviors on the spot.  

Companies measure the success of their defenses by comparing ongoing phishing campaign results against initial baseline performance. Continual analysis helps you identify trends and adjust techniques or education as needed. Both qualitative observations and quantitative data are critical for assessing the program's effectiveness and communicating results to stakeholders. 

Andrei Antipov
Andrei Antipov

Andrei is a security engineer. He holds a cybersecurity degree from Bellevue University and is an Associate of (ISC)² toward CCFP and a Metasploit Pro Certified Specialist. Andrei is interested in reading and writing about all things cybersecurity, with a focus on security governance, penetration testing and digital forensics. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family and talking about weird movies and trip-hop.