What is whaling in cyber security?

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What is whaling in cyber security?
What is whaling in cyber security?
What is whaling in cyber security?
What is whaling in cyber security?
What is whaling in cyber security?

What is whaling in cyber security?


Whaling is a form of email phishing that targets high-level executive employees. The goal of this attack isn’t to steal money from the company’s bank account; instead, it’s more like a sophisticated version of spear phishing. Whaling is a way for hackers to get access to sensitive information and gain control over a business’ accounts. The goal of a whaling attack is to compromise a company and to access confidential information such as financial records, trade secrets, and customer data.

Whaling differs from phishing in that the hackers are specifically targeting one person at a time rather than sending out mass emails with malicious attachments or links inside them; this makes it harder for IT security teams to detect whaling attacks because they’re not done in traditional ways that can easily be detected using softwares like anti-virus or firewalls.

Whaling: What are the consequences?

Whaling attacks are a type of corporate espionage attack where high-level employees are targeted. These attacks are designed to steal money or sensitive information from the Organisation, such as employee names, addresses and Social Security numbers.

Consequences of a successful whaling attack include the loss of company secrets and intellectual property, financial losses due to fraudulent transactions, reputational damage and the cost of cleaning up the mess. Whaling attacks can also be used as a means of extortion; once an employee has been compromised, data thieves may use it as leverage against the Organisation in order to get their hands on additional information or money.

Whaling is difficult to detect since the attackers usually use legitimate communication channels such as email, VoIP calls or text messages. This makes it more likely that users will fall for these scams because they don’t expect attacks from trusted sources like their boss or someone from the HR department.

Recent changes in common whaling tactics

Whaling attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and effective, making it difficult to detect and defend against. One of the biggest changes in recent years is the increased targeting of high-level executives for the purpose of achieving a specific business goal. Previously, whaling attacks were largely indiscriminate; now they are focused on gaining access to executive accounts that can be used to manipulate an Organisation’s finances or other operations.

Another recent trend has been an increase in phishing campaigns designed specifically to gain access to high-value credentials by using nefarious social engineering techniques such as spoofing email addresses or domains that appear legitimate but are actually controlled by hackers.

The reason behind this trend is that the value of a single executive’s account credentials can be much greater than those held by general employees. The executive may have access to a company’s financial records and transactions, which can be used in an effort to manipulate or steal funds. In addition, they may have access to other sensitive data such as customer lists and intellectual property.

Whaling Attacks: How It Works and How to Protect Yourself?

Whaling attacks differ from phishing attacks in that they’re targeted at executives and high-ranking employees, rather than the general public.

Whaling attacks are generally more sophisticated than phishing attacks because the attacker knows a lot about you before they even reach out to you. This makes it easier for them to trick you into opening an attachment or clicking on a link by impersonating people or Organisations your trust, like your bank or email provider.

If you fall victim to a whaling attack, there’s no guarantee that all of your information was accessed by the attacker—they may have just gotten enough personal data from one of your accounts to convince someone else (like an employer) that they were talking with the real deal. And once all those bits of personal information are out there floating around, hackers have fertile ground for identity theft and other malicious activities.

Examples of whaling attacks

Let’s take a look at some examples of whaling attacks.

Email based whaling attack: An executive receives an email from his/her financial institution, asking him or her to verify their account information by clicking on a link in the email. The executive clicks on it and unwittingly provides personal information that can be used to gain access to their accounts.

Phone based whaling attack: A telephone call is made to an executive from someone claiming to be from the FBI, IRS, or other government agency. The caller asks for his/her social security number and bank account information because he/she needs it for “investigation purposes”. The executive does not think much about this request, believing it is coming from an official source like the FBI or IRS; however, what he doesn’t know is that he has just been scammed into providing sensitive information over the phone that can be used by criminals against him/her.

Defending against whaling attacks

Defending against whaling attacks is as simple as using a multi-factor authentication system. Additionally, it’s important that your employees are trained in cyber security and understand how to report suspicious activity.

Let’s look at some other steps that will help your employees stay safe from Whaling attacks:

  • Ensure that your IT team is educated in cyber security best practices and understands how to identify common threats.
  • Train your employees on how to identify phishing attacks, malware, ransomware and other types of hacking attempts.
  • Create a security awareness program for your Organisation to help educate employees about these dangers and encourage them to report suspicious activity.
  • Ensure that your Organisation uses a secure email service, secure web browser and secure operating system with regular updates.

Why are Whaling Attacks Successful?

Whaling attacks are successful because they target high level employees where the attackers research their targets, and send emails that look like they are from a legitimate source. In many cases the attackers use social engineering to get their victims to click on links or open attachments which contain malicious software that can steal data or access sensitive information.

Whaling attacks need not be hard to detect but can be difficult for an end user to spot as these attacks are done through email spoofing and other forms of social engineering.

What is the Difference Between Phishing, Spear Phishing, and Whaling?

Phishing is the act of sending emails with malicious attachments for the purpose of stealing personal data (usernames and passwords) or credit card information. The trick is to make it look like a legitimate email from a trustworthy company (like your bank). You click on an attachment that installs malware on your computer. Then they steal your identity or money using it. Phishing emails are usually sent to a number of people at once.

Spear phishing is targeted phishing that targets a specific individual or an Organisation by impersonating someone close to them in order to gain access to sensitive information such as information about their bank details or network infrastructure (in cases where the phishing targets an Organisation)—which can be used for further attacks down the line. For example, an attacker might send an email masquerading as being from an IT department leader asking for help setting up a new laptop for him/herself personally; once installed on said device (through malicious software like remote access trojans), then all files are accessible through this conduit which makes malicious activity easier overall; so long as no one notices something strange happening!

Whaling is a form of social engineering that targets high-value targets such as C-level executives, CEOs, HR managers and so on. This is done by sending emails or other messages masquerading as an employee in order to trick them into revealing sensitive information about their company. For example, an attacker might send an email masquerading as being from a CFO requesting help setting up a new laptop for him/herself personally; once installed on said device (through malicious software like remote access trojans), then all files are accessible through this device which makes it easier for the attacker to gain access to other sensitive data. 

How Neumetric Can Help Prevent Whaling Attacks

If you want to prevent, detect and recover from whaling attacks, Neumetric can help. Neumetric offers Information Security Services such as ISO 27001 Certification, EU GDPR Compliance, PCI DSS Certification and so on. Neumetric conducts Information Security Awareness Training programs during the compliance or certification process that will help your employees remain safe from such attacks. These services will not only help you achieve compliances and security certifications for your Organisation, but will also significantly improve your overall security posture.


Whaling is a cyber security attack that targets high-level executives at companies, using the personal information of these executives to launch an attack. This type of phishing scam has been around for years but has recently seen an uptick in popularity due to advances in technology. There are several ways you can defend against whaling attacks, including advanced email, web filtering services and so on. 


What is an example of whaling?

A company’s CFO receives an email from a person claiming to be their boss, asking them to send some financial information. The CFO clicks on the link in the email and is taken to a false website that looks identical to the real one but contains malware.

Why is it called whaling phishing and why is it called so?

The term “whaling” is derived from the high-value targets often targeted by phishing scams. Whaling attacks typically target senior executives or those in positions of authority within Organisations, such as finance and HR personnel. Whaling is often a precursor to larger attacks aimed at breaching an Organisation’s security perimeter.

What is the goal of whaling?

The goal of whaling is to steal sensitive data from the victim. This can include usernames and passwords, but it also might involve leveraging social engineering techniques to trick victims into downloading malware to their personal computers.

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