Last updated December 5th, 2023 23:51
What is whaling phishing? Do you know this threat? Whaling phishing is the second level of enhancement to the classic phishing, which many of you probably already know. In classic phishing, attackers try to lure as many users as possible to fake websites or compel you to open suspicious links. As a result, the attacker obtains sensitive information such as passwords, banking details, or various types of personal information. But what is Whaling phishing? We will explore this type of phishing today.
What Is Whaling Phishing? Do You Know This Threat?
Whaling phishing, as the name suggests, focuses its bait on “whales,” which are key figures in business or public life. Cybercriminals target executives, managers, senior employees, and other individuals with access to important data or authority within an organization. Typically, these “whales” have greater power and access to the company’s financial resources, making them even more attractive targets.
The first critical piece of information is that this type of phishing is targeted specifically at high-ranking individuals within an organization or company.
How does Whaling phishing work?
Whaling phishing usually starts with thorough information gathering about the target of the attack. Cybercriminals meticulously study publicly available sources, social media, websites, and other information channels to gather as much information as possible about the “whale” and create a credible scenario for their deception.
Jan is a successful director of a local branch of a large corporation. He leads a team of passionate and successful individuals. His branch specializes in technological innovations, and thanks to its achievements and reputation, it becomes a target for cybercriminals.
One day, Jan receives what appears to be a trustworthy email on his company account. The email is from the “Finance Department” with the subject “Important Unpaid Invoice.” The email contains a PDF attachment, supposedly containing an unpaid payment request from one of his trusted suppliers. Jan is under time pressure and rushes to resolve financial matters.
Under the pressure of events and the desire to address the situation promptly, Jan opens the PDF attachment without suspicion. However, what he doesn’t know is that this action triggers a dangerous malware that secretly installs itself on his computer. The malware is highly sophisticated and enables cybercriminals to gain access to the company network and confidential data.
Over the course of a few days, the malware gradually starts gathering data from Jan’s computer, including sensitive company information, databases, and banking details. Cybercriminals redirect the acquired information to their servers to exploit it for their fraudulent activities.
Why do high-ranking individuals become targets?
There are several reasons why high-ranking individuals become frequent targets of cyber-attacks, including whaling phishing:
- Access to valuable information: High-ranking individuals typically have access to crucial and valuable information. This including corporate strategies, sensitive customer data, and confidential financial transactions. This information is considered highly confidential. Cybercriminals try to obtain this information to exploit it for fraud, espionage, or extortion.
- Authority and power: High-ranking individuals often have greater authority and power within an organization. This makes them attractive targets for attackers who may attempt to gain control of their accounts or identities to exert more influence over the company’s decision-making.
- Extortion and reputation: Cybercriminals may use the acquired information or compromising materials about high-ranking individuals for extortion and coercion. In this way, they can demand financial rewards, obtain further information, or influence the decisions and actions of the targeted individuals.
- Lack of awareness and security measures: High-ranking individuals may be more susceptible to cyber-attacks if they lack awareness of cyber threats and do not implement adequate security measures. Many of them may also be busy with their job responsibilities and may not have the time to deal with security matters.
- Potential impact: A successful cyber-attack on a high-ranking individual can have a greater impact than an attack on an ordinary employee. This can lead to financial losses for the company, reputational damage, and loss of customer trust.
What Is Whaling Phishing? Do You Know This Threat?
As you have undoubtedly understood from the above text, Whaling phishing essentially represents another level of phishing, but with a more specific target. This attack is more dangerous because attackers first gather enough information about the potential target before striking. Compared to classic phishing, this attack is much more sophisticated, detailed, and less prone to detection.
Furthermore, in the case of a well-executed attack, the attackers typically gain highly valuable data. This data has the potential to tarnish the company’s reputation, and additionally, it can cause significant financial losses.
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