Whaling, also known as CEO fraud, is similar to phishing in that it uses methods, such as spoofing websites and emails, to trick the victim into revealing confidential information or making money transfers, among other actions.
Have you been a victim of it? Or want to avoid it shortly?
Then keep reading this article about Whaling in 2023.
What Is Whaling In Cyber Security & How Does It Work?
A whaling attack is a method used by cybercriminals to pretend to be at a higher level in an organization and thus directly attack senior executives or other important people within the organization to steal money, obtain confidential information, or gain access to their computer systems for criminal purposes.
Whaling attacks involve the use of phishing emails. However, these emails tend to be more advanced than standard phishing messages. This is since whaling emails typically:
⦁ Contain personalized information. Whaling emails usually include information about the recipient and the organization of the recipient.
⦁ Seem urgent. A whaling email can include terms and phrases that indicate that the recipient should act quickly and respond to the sender’s message immediately.
⦁ Are written in an easy-to-read tone and style. Whaling messages can resemble other messages in a recipient’s inbox.
The criminal can use social networks or other Internet sources to learn about this person and their organization. From here, the criminal can customize their whaling-type attack.
During a whaling attack, a cybercriminal uses the power of a “whale” to gain the trust of a phishing email recipient.
The hacker can impersonate the senior management of an organization. And the criminal does it in the hope of gaining illegal access to an organization’s sensitive data.
In general, a cybercriminal will send a whaling email to one or more employees within an organization. The hacker pretends to be a senior leader who is requesting information from a worker and asking him to follow certain instructions.
To fulfill the sender’s email request, the worker may be asked to share sensitive information. Or, the employee may be asked to unknowingly download a malicious attachment onto her device.
There may also be times when an employee is asked to transfer funds to a cybercriminal’s bank account.
If a whaling attack is successful, a cybercriminal can access vast amounts of data across an entire organization. In addition, the attack can lead to a data breach.
How to Defend Yourself from Whaling in 2023
As we mentioned earlier, whaling attacks differ from spear phishing in that fraudulent communications appear to come from a higher-level person.
These attacks take on a more legitimate appearance when cybercriminals carefully investigate available open resources, such as social networks, to devise a customized strategy for each victim they wish to deceive.
The first strategy to stay safe from whaling attacks is to educate key people in the organization to be vigilant about falling victim to whaling attacks. Ask key employees to exercise caution when receiving unexpected communications, especially when it involves important information or financial transactions.
You should always ask yourself a few key questions: were you expecting to receive an email, an attachment, or a link? Does the request have something strange?
They must also know how to spot the typical signs of an attack, such as forged (fraudulent) email addresses and sender names. By simply hovering over the sender’s name in an email, you can see the full email address.
Thus, it is easy to study it carefully and determine if it exactly matches the name and format of the company. The IT department should conduct whaling tests to assess how key employees respond to these attacks.
On the other hand, executives must be especially careful when posting and sharing information online on social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Cybercriminals can use any type of personal information, such as birthdays, hobbies, vacations, job titles, promotions, and relationships, to craft more sophisticated attacks.
A great way to reduce the damage that spoofed emails can cause is to ask IT to automatically flag all emails that come from external locations for review.
Generally, whaling attacks are based on tricking important employees into thinking that the messages are coming from within the organization; for example, a money transfer request sent by a finance manager.
If external messages are flagged, it is easier to detect those that are fake and appear legitimate at first glance, even for people who do not have much experience.
It is also recommended to implement phishing protection software that includes various services such as URL checking and link validation. Another recommended step is to add a level of validation for sending sensitive information or large amounts of money.
Lastly, when it comes to internet scams, two heads are better than one. Consider modifying the procedures so that two people must authorize payments, instead of one.
Not only does this provide a second-person perspective to resolve concerns, but it also reduces the likelihood that the employee will fear retaliation from that higher-level person should they become upset about the application being denied, as fear is a key social engineering tactic that attackers rely on.