Though whaling is an ancient practice, it’s still alive and well today. Fortunately, this time around, the whales aren’t the hunted, but unfortunately your personal information is. Cybercriminals use a technique called “whaling” to hunt your information by sending fake emails or messages that look like they’re from reputable companies or organizations.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a form of online fraud designed to acquire sensitive information from unsuspecting victims. Phishing typically transpires when a malicious third-party sends messages or creates fake websites to trick their targets into revealing confidential information.
What is Whaling?
Whaling is a type of phishing attack that targets high-profile individuals and top executives of large organizations. Whaling attacks are highly targeted, and the perpetrators focus on specific people within a given organization regardless of how many recipients may be on their list.
A whaler’s goal is to access confidential information like login credentials or corporate financial data.
The Difference: Phishing vs. Whaling
While both whaling and phishing involve the use of fraudulent emails or websites in order to gain access to confidential information, there are key differences between the two. Phishing is the more common cyberattack. This type of scam attempts to collect information from a broad audience by creating fake emails, websites, and social media profiles that appear legitimate. Meaning the net is set wide for anyone to fall victim.
Whaling, on the other hand, is more targeted and primarily used against businesses and organizations with large amounts of data. Since whaling attacks are often much more sophisticated than traditional phishing scams, it’s important for individuals and companies alike to be knowledgeable about the various tactics used by hackers so they can keep their data safe from any potential breaches.
What can Whaling Attacks Look Like
Common whaling tactics include spoofing emails from CEOs or asking for financial transfers from legitimate vendors. What makes whaling particularly dangerous is that these attacks usually happen under the guise of something legitimate. So, it’s essential to know how these cyberattacks differ and remain vigilant with your online activities. A small error can lead to massive losses in terms of both money and sensitive information.
Spotting a Whaling Attack
Spotting a whaling attack can be tricky, as they are designed to mimic real emails and mask themselves as trustworthy. However, it’s essential to be diligent in email security by highlighting details that can indicate a spoof.
One way to look out for whaling is to pay attention to variations in the sender’s email address. It may appear slightly different than normal or even have a typo in it that could indicate the sender is a cybercriminal masquerading as someone else. You should also pay attention to the language used in an email. Malicious actors often attempt to use more professional or sophisticated language than usual to seem legitimate. If you’re unsure whether an email is safe, reach out to the individual directly via phone or secure messaging app before proceeding with any requests made in the email.
Preventing a Whaling Attack
There are several steps you can take to prevent whaling attacks.
Keep Your Software Updated: Software updates often include security patches that can help to protect your computer from new threats.
Use an Antivirus Program: Antivirus programs can detect and remove malicious software from your computer to protect you from attacks. Be sure to choose an antivirus program that is well-reviewed and updated regularly.
Avoid Unknown Links: If you receive an email from an unknown sender that contains a link, don’t click. Even if the email looks legitimate, it could be a whaling attack.
Be Careful Downloading Files: Be careful when downloading files from the internet, even if they come from a trusted source. You can scan downloaded files with an antivirus program before opening them.
Considering these advanced cyberthreats may seem unnerving but taking the time to protect yourself (and your staff) can go a long way in warding off criminals aiming for a payoff.
Prevention is vital when it comes to safe online activity!