What is Whaling in CyberSecurity?

Imagine a vast ocean of cybersecurity, overflowing with different types of cybersecurity attacks and threats of all sizes. In these digital waters, there are a few who stand out – the “whales” of the corporate world. Whaling attacks are the harpoons of cyber espionage, aimed at the big fish in an organization’s sea. 

The “whales” are the C-suite’s top executives, senior team players, and high-profile employees. Their significance within a company makes them prime targets for hackers, who see them as gateways to a wealth of sensitive data. It’s their influence and authority that sets the stage for a successful whaling attack. 

How Does Whaling Work?

Hackers try to take on the disguises of whales and weaponize social engineering. They exploit the reputations of their high-ranking prey, impersonating senior executives or key employees. Their strength lies in manipulation, leveraging their fake authority and manipulating lower-ranking staff into compromising vital data.

Examples of Whaling Attacks

The most common whaling attack is the spoofed email, a convincing imitation of legitimate company correspondence. One click, and the hack is underway. Let’s explore how a whaling scam unfurls in the world of cybersecurity.

  1. Whaling Attack Through an Email Link

Imagine an email, allegedly from the CEO, sent to subordinates. It’s an email with authority, demanding immediate attention. There’s a link within, a download, seemingly innocent but dangerous. When this is clicked, the system’s defenses crumble, and confidential information is exposed. 

Snapchat found itself in this exact situation when an HR staff member mistook a hacker’s email for the CEO’s. Payroll details of current and former employees were handed over, resulting in a data breach.

  1. Whaling Attack Through a Subpoena Email

Whaling tactics are not limited to email links. Hackers can take on the disguise of the United States District Court, sending people a fake subpoena through an email. Individuals, concerned for their organization’s well-being, discover a payload of malware upon opening the email.

  1. Whaling Attack Via Zoom Invite

Some hackers get creative, similar to the case of  Levitas, an Aussie hedge fund. A fake Zoom invite led to their downfall, when the co-founder clicked the seemingly innocent link. This generated fake invoices within the company’s system, leading to significant financial losses.

  1. Whaling Attack to Send Money

Even giants like Mattel, the toy company behind Barbie and Hot Wheels, aren’t immune to whaling attacks. Impersonating the new CEO, scammers requested a hefty money transfer to a new vendor. Eager to meet the boss’s demands, the victim unwittingly completed the transaction, handing $3 million to Chinese cyberthieves.

What are the Consequences of Whaling Attacks?

From data breaches to financial losses, the aftermath is detrimental. Below are some of the consequences for anyone who falls prey to a whaling scam:

  • Divulge sensitive information
  • Infect a computer with malware
  • Lose a huge amount of money
  • Attack on supply chains
  • Execute corporate espionage


How to Prevent Whaling Attacks?

Whaling attacks are some of the boldest scams that are carried out successfully. It’s their authoritative elements incorporated into their tactic that victims helplessly fall for. But whaling scams, just like other security attacks, can be prevented through cyber awareness.

What is Whaling Cyber Awareness?

Awareness is the first line of defense, not only for high-ranking executives but for every employee in an organization. It’s vital to instill a culture of cyber consciousness.

Organizations can start by educating all teams on the significance of cybersecurity. Equipping them with the knowledge necessary to recognize and prevent whaling attempts. Some steps to fortify your organization’s defenses:

  • Implement essential cybersecurity practices across the board.
  • Scrutinize emails closely, paying attention to structure and punctuation.
  • Be cautious with emails from external sources.
  • Exercise restraint before clicking on links or attachments from unfamiliar senders.
  • Think twice before sharing personal information online, for it might be just what a hacker needs to reel in their catch.

What is the Role of Social Media in Whaling Attacks?

Social media is one of the main sources of hackers. It’s where hackers find the information they need to craft the perfect whaling attack. The top executives should be cautious of their online presence. It’s important to refrain from sharing specific details online to prevent hackers from gaining the ammunition they need.



If this information is helpful to you read our blog for more interesting and useful content, tips, and guidelines on similar topics. Contact the team of COMPUTER 2000 Bulgaria now if you have a specific question. Our specialists will be assisting you with your query. 

Content curated by the team of COMPUTER 2000 on the basis of news in reputable media and marketing materials provided by our partners, companies, and other vendors.




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