Staff's Initial Glee on Bonuses Email Soon Turns to Ire

Train company slammed for sending 'phishing simulation test' under guise of extra payment
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2021 12:35 PM CDT
The Email Promised Bonuses. Instead, a 'Cynical' Stunt
Stock photo.   (Pexels/Cottonbro)

After working through the pandemic, employees of a UK railway company were excited to see an email in their inboxes indicating gratitude from management. Per CNBC, the message from higher-ups at West Midlands Trains indicated to 2,500 staff members they'd soon be receiving a bonus. "We realize that a huge strain was placed upon a large number of our workforce as a result of COVID-19," the email read, per the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, a union representing rail workers. "This has not been easy for any of us and we would like to offer you a one-off payment to say thank you." The email then instructed staff to click on a link to read a message from managing director Julian Edwards. When they clicked on the link, however, employees found it was instead a "cynical and shocking stunt," says TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes.

Instead of info about their bonuses, workers found a message informing them they'd been part of a "phishing simulation test," meant to "entice" staff to click on the link and provide personal information. The message then warned staff against clicking on suspicious-looking links and to remain "vigilant." Cortes, who deems the move a "crass and reprehensible" one that's "almost beyond belief," is now demanding not only an apology, but an actual bonus to be paid to staffers, to "begin to right a wrong which has needlessly caused so much hurt," per the Guardian. West Midlands Trains doesn't seem particularly apologetic. "We take cybersecurity very seriously," a rep says. "The design of the email was just the sort of thing a criminal organization would use—and thankfully it was an exercise without the consequences of a real attack." (More phishing stories.)

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