A whaling attack is a mode of phishing scam that targets high-ranking executives. Cybercriminals try to dupe their victims into taking adverse actions by impersonating a high-ranking professional. They frequently try to obtain massive wire transfers, sensitive information or infect computers with malware containing misleading links. The latter two indicate that this social engineering method may have long-term effects, as cybercriminals can use the data gathered from a whaling attack to launch additional attacks.
The distinction between whaling and other types of phishing lies in the target's specificity.
While phishing targets many people at random, and spearphishing targets people who have been picked for a specific reason; whaling takes it a step further. It focuses on a small number of people and creates phony communications that look to come from a senior or otherwise influential person within the target's organization. As the name implies, they prefer to attack "whales," or large fish, such as a company's CEO.
Cybercriminals use social media and publicly available information to create a profile and attack strategy. They can even infect the network with malware and rootkits: an email from the CEO's account is far more effective than a faked email account. And what if these emails include details that make the attacks appear to be originating from reputable sources? It gets even better.
Email is the most effective phishing (and whaling) method − email is used in 98 percent of all phishing attacks. Phishing emails used to focus on including virus links or attachments; more lately, successful whaling campaigns have made a single request that appears convincing to the victim.
The communication is styled with official corporate logos, signatures, and links to phony websites. Whales have a high level of confidence in the integrity of the messages they receive. This factor, combined with the fact that almost all whales have significant internal access to a company, makes whaling attacks extremely worthwhile. As a result, fraudsters go to great lengths to make their unlawful business appear respectable.
Whaling attacks can harm the victims and their organization's reputation in addition to causing them to lose money or data. Some organizations have fired employees who have succumbed to social engineering efforts. Any sufficiently advanced whale attack will be impossible to detect. Organizations, on the other hand, can make efforts to reduce the likelihood of successful assaults.
The impacts of whaling assaults and recognizing them should be taught to senior management, key staff, and financial teams. Train this personnel on standard phishing attack features like spoofed sender identities, unsolicited requests/attachments, or spoofed hyperlinks, and test them regularly with simulated whaling assaults.
If the email is from a colleague, double-check the sender's address. When receiving an email from a third party, look up the company's official email address and compare it to the one used to send your email.
Check that the domain on the link matches the company's domain name from whom it was sent. If it differs even slightly, it's most likely a forgery attempting to imitate an email from this organization. If this is the case, there is almost certainly a bogus website associated with it that you should avoid connecting to.
Establish a verification process inside the organization. Suppose an employee receives an email seeking dollars or information typically sent by email. In that case, the safest approach is to confirm the request with the indicated sender via another channel before transmitting any sensitive data. Internal protocols should be documented, and workers should be trained on how to manage these requests.
Finally, poor language, improper typos, and an off-kilter writing style are some of the easiest ways to recognize a whale phishing email. Most people use the same communication methods and terminology every day, so if something seems out of the ordinary, it's good to double-check the message's source before proceeding.