In today’s digital age, cybercriminals are constantly sharpening their arsenal of weapons and looking for new ways to get a foot in the door. From self-employed entrepreneurs to CEOs of large businesses, retirees, and even children, no one group is exempt from a cyber-attack.
One such high-stakes cyber-attack is known as “whale phishing” and is used to steal company information. In this blog post, we’ll learn more about whale phishing, diving into its meaning, how these attacks are carried out, and the steps that can be taken to prevent and stop them.
What is Whale Phishing?
Whale phishing, also known as whaling or CEO fraud, is a type of phishing attack, but it focuses on high-profile employees within the company. This could include everyone in the C-suite, the entire executive team, senior management, and other high-level employees.
Compared to general phishing attacks or even spear phishing, which targets specific individuals or departments within a company, whale phishing takes aim at those with the most access to sensitive information or financial data and resources, making it even more of a dangerous threat.
How Whale Phishing Attacks Work
Whale phishing attacks will rely on a combination of social engineering and technical ploys. Cybercriminals will use email spoofing (sending emails that look legitimate and trustworthy but are actually from spammers or attackers.) to gain access. By posing as trusted sources such as a CEO or high-profile colleague, they can deceive their targets into revealing sensitive information or approving fraudulent financial transactions.
Common Techniques of Whale Phishing
Just as in regular phishing attacks, there are similar techniques cyber criminals use in whale phishing. These techniques include:
- Crafting personalized messages with the target’s personal details.
- Using urgent requests or deadlines creates a sense of pressure.
- Employing urgent language to convince the target to take the desired action quickly.
- Using the language of cooperation or scarcity also allows the user to take action.
Unlike regular phishing, cybercriminals will spend considerable time researching their targets and gathering information to create these convincing messages.
Consequences of Whale Phishing
The consequences of falling victim to a whale phishing attack can be severe. Financial losses from fraudulent activity can greatly impact an organization’s bottom line. Additionally, the longer the threat goes undetected sensitive information could lead to more attacks later, identity theft, or damage to the company’s reputation. If there is a failure to protect sensitive information or adhere to laws or standards, lawsuits and other legal implications could exist.
Preventing & Stopping Whale Phishing Attacks
To protect against whale phishing attacks, businesses and organizations should take proactive security measures. The number one step is to educate all employees, particularly those in high-profile positions, including assistants. Some strategies to prevent whale phishing attacks in their tracks include:
- Regular employee training on identifying phishing emails and the latest attack techniques.
- Implementing email filtering systems to block or flag suspicious messages.
- Encouraging the use of multi-factor authentication for accessing sensitive systems and data.
- Establishing clear protocols for verifying and approving financial transactions or changes to personal information.
If an attack does happen it will be helpful to have an incident response plan for when a whale phishing attack is suspected. Include steps to take for damage control and be sure to report the attack to key personnel.
Stop Whale Phishing Today with MX Guardian
Businesses and prominent individuals are particularly vulnerable to whale phishing attacks. MXGuardian Email Security is able to automatically detect the names of key employees, including abbreviations and alternate spellings, and thwart attempts to impersonate those individuals. To reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a whale phishing attack, try MXGuardian for free for 30 Days!
Trust MXGuardian to keep your email systems protected and secured against whale phishing and other forms of malicious attacks.