West Midlands Trains emailed 2,500 of its employees with a message thanking them for their hard work throughout the pandemic. The email promised workers a one-off payment as a thank you after “huge strain was placed upon a large number of [their] workforce”.
The employees who clicked through instead received an additional email with a message informing them that they would not be receiving a bonus, as it was in fact a “phishing simulation test”. The message warned: “This was a test designed by our IT team to entice you to click the link and used both the promise of thanks and financial reward.”
A West Midlands Trains spokesperson said: “We take cybersecurity very seriously. We run regular training and it’s important to test your resilience.
“The design of the email was just the sort of thing a criminal organisation would use – and thankfully it was an exercise without the consequences of a real attack.”
However, the stunt has been met with much criticism and backlash – particularly from The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) union. General Secretary Manuel Cortes, said: “This was a cynical and shocking stunt by West Midlands Trains, designed to trick employees who have been on the frontline throughout this terrible pandemic – ensuring essential workers were able to travel.
“The company must now account for their totally crass and reprehensible behaviour. They could and should have used any other pretext to test their internet security. It’s almost beyond belief that they chose to falsely offer a bonus to workers who have done so much in the fight against this virus.”
“Our members have made real sacrifices these past 12 months and more. Some WMT staff have caught the disease at work, one has tragically died, and others have placed family members at great risk.”
Cortes has stated he believes that West Midlands Trains should apologise and pay the promised bonus in order to begin to make amends.
“In that way the company can begin to right a wrong which has needlessly caused so much hurt.”