A railway union launched a “cynical and shocking stunt” after a railway company emailed staff to promise a bonus to workers who had driven trains during the pandemic – only to reveal it was in fact a test of their cybersecurity awareness.
West Midlands Trains emailed around 2,500 employees with a message saying its managing director Julian Edwards wanted to thank them for their hard work over the past year under Covid-19. The email stated that they would receive a one-time payment as a thank you after “tremendous pressure was put on a lot of our employees.”
However, those who clicked on the link to read Edwards’ acknowledgments were emailed back with a message telling them that it was a company-designed “phishing mock test” and that ‘there was no bonus. He warned, “This was a test designed by our IT team to get you to click on the link and used both the thank you note and the financial reward. “
The union leader of the Transport Employees Association (TSSA) said it was “rude and reprehensible”, especially since a worker at West Midlands Trains had died from Covid-19 and many others had fallen ill with the virus.
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “It was a cynical and shocking stunt from West Midlands Trains, designed to deceive the employees who have been on the front lines throughout this terrible pandemic – by ensuring that workers essentials can travel.
“The company must now be held accountable for its completely rude and reprehensible behavior. They could and should have used any other pretext to test their internet security. It is almost impossible to believe that they wrongly chose to offer a bonus to the workers who have done so much in the fight against this virus. “
“Our members have made real sacrifices over the past 12 months and more. Some WMT staff caught the illness at work, one died tragically and others put their family members in great danger. “
Cortes said the company should apologize and now pay a real bonus, to start making amends.
“That way the company can begin to right a wrong that has caused so much wrong unnecessarily.”
A West Midlands Trains spokesperson said: “We take cybersecurity very seriously. We regularly organize trainings and it is important to test your resilience.
“The email design was exactly the sort of thing a criminal organization would use – and luckily, it was an exercise without the consequences of a real attack.”