When it comes to protecting your business, it is crucial to know the terms of cyber safety, what they do, how they work, and most importantly how to defend yourself against them.
Whaling is a common attack strategy used by cybercriminals to enter your protected files, destroy them, or even transfer money from your business accounts to theirs.
This happens to businesses of all sizes and strengths.
In this article, we explain what whaling is and how you can protect yourself, your business, and your employees against these attacks.
Keep your business safe and secure without the worry of cybercriminals taking what’s important to you.
What Is Whaling?
A whaling attack is a technique used by cybercriminals to impersonate a senior member of an organization and target senior or other significant individuals directly with the intention of stealing money or sensitive information or gaining access to their computer systems for illegal activities.
Whaling, also known as CEO fraud, is comparable to phishing in that it uses techniques like email and website spoofing to fool a victim into taking particular activities, such as disclosing personal information or sending money.
Many confuse Whaling with Phishing attacks.
And spear-phishing targets specific individuals while phishing scams often target non-specific persons, whaling focuses on key individuals while also making the false communications they receive appear to have come from a senior or powerful figure inside their business.
They consider them to be the company’s “big phish” or “whales,” such as the CEO or finance manager. Because staff members are hesitant to turn down a request from someone they view as important, this introduces another social engineering factor into the mix.
How Does Whaling Work?
As explained above, whaling is an extremely effective method as this request for secure information comes from someone in a senior position.
More often than not, extreme research will be done into the business before completing a whaling attack in order to gain the information they require.
This research can be done on platforms that are ready and available to anyone such as social media and the company website.
A whaling attack may include an email that replicates a senior manager and will begin with a topic that is known by everyone but is still personal to the business.
For example, “Hi Emily, it’s Craig again- how is that Instagram campaign going for the latest product?”.
This opens a dialogue which the employee may deem safe and feel appropriate to continue and eventually send on more important information without knowing that “Craig” is not sending those emails.
The sender’s email address also frequently appears to be from a reliable source and may even include company logos or links to a phony website that has been similarly made to appear real.
Because a whale typically has high levels of access and trust inside their business, it is worthwhile for the cybercriminal to take extra care to make the scheme seem credible.
How To Defend Against Whaling Attacks
To begin defending against whaling attacks, all it takes is training and educating yourself and your employees.
This training should be given to every single member of your organization and done regularly as cybercriminals gain new and inventive ways to steal information.
Encourage key staff members to always be wary of unsolicited contact, especially when it involves sensitive data or major financial transactions.
They should constantly reflect on whether they anticipated the email, attachment, or link. Is the request in any way unusual?
The entire workforce of your business should also be trained to recognize the key elements which identify a whaling attack.
This can include a fake email address and staff names. You can hover the cursor over an email to reveal the full address and if it is not recognized, it should be reported and discarded.
Additionally, executives need to learn to exercise extra caution when publishing information on social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Cybercriminals can utilize information like birthdays, interests, holidays, jobs, promotions, and romantic connections to create more complex assaults.
One of the most effective ways to decrease the success rate of whaling attacks is to have your IT department alert any emails which come from outside the business.
Whaling frequently relies on cybercriminals tricking important workers into thinking messages are coming from within your company, such as a finance manager asking for money to be sent to an account.
Even for people with an untrained eye, flagging outside emails makes it simpler to identify phony emails that appear real at first glance.
Another way to protect your organization against whaling and phishing is to employe specialist anti-phishing software that has been specifically designed to detect whaling and phishing attacks(see also: How To Detect A Hacker Attack? [Ultimate Guide]).
You may also want to create another layer of security when handling sensitive information.
For example, meeting the recipient face to face or dealing with things over the phone so you can ensure it is the correct person.
Also, it’s always better to have two heads than one when it comes to Internet scams.
Consider revising the processes at your company such that two people, rather than one, must approve payments.
This removes the danger that they would be singled out for punishment by that senior person should they be unhappy at any refusal, as fear is a fundamental social engineering technique that these attackers rely on.
It also gives one person a second point of view to bounce off anything that may seem misleading.
As technology continues to advance, cybercriminals are continuously thinking of ways to hack into our systems and take our most precious assets.
This means we must have tough defenses to stop them.
Whaling is one of the most common ways to gain access to an organization and to gain personal data, money, and files. All of which are damaging to the business.
Learn how to protect yourself, your organization, and your employees by knowing what whaling is and how it works.
Create more lines of security to ensure everyone and everything is secure!