Everyone is a potential victim in the world of cybercrime. From CEOs to celebrities, nobody is safe in the hands of hackers. These attackers leave no stone unturned in ensuring they get what they want. This is especially true when it comes to whaling attacks.
Whaling, also known as business email compromise (BEC) or the “CEO Fraud,” is a type of cyber attack that targets employees in high-level positions within organizations. Attackers use social engineering tactics to trick employees into revealing sensitive information or authorizing fraudulent wire transfers.
Like all phishing attacks, whaling emails are designed to look like they originate from a trusted source. The best way to protect your organization against whaling attacks is to educate employees about the signs of phishing emails and how to respond. Here’s what you should know about whaling attacks.
What Is the Difference Between Phishing and Whaling?
Phishing is a cyber attack that uses disguised email as a weapon. The goal is to trick the email recipient into giving up sensitive information or taking action on fraudulent requests.
Phishing emails may seek to steal passwords, credit card numbers, account data, or money. They usually contain links that redirect victims to spoofed websites designed to look like the real thing.
On the other hand, whaling is a specific type of phishing attack that targets high-level executives and other individuals with access to sensitive company data. The goal of whaling is to extract confidential information from these individuals or get them to execute fraudulent financial transactions.
And because attackers know that high-profile individuals most likely have extensive cybersecurity training, they often go to great lengths to make their phishing emails look as legitimate as possible. They may even include specific details about the target’s company or personal life to add an air of authenticity.
How to Recognize a Whaling Attack
The best way to protect yourself from falling victim to a whaling attack is to be aware of the signs. Here are some tips:
- Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, especially those that request sensitive information or ask you to click on a link
- Look closely at the email address and website links in messages before clicking on them. In most cases, the email address or link will appear real, but upon closer inspection, you will see that the address is not what you expected.
- Verify any requests for information or payments by calling the company directly—do not use the contact information provided in the email.
- Check for spelling errors in the subject and body of the email. Authentic messages won’t have mistakes.
If you’ve done all these things and you’re still not sure if the email is legitimate, consult the cybersecurity department at work or a trusted tech support person. And if you think you’ve been the victim of an email scam, notify your company’s cybersecurity department immediately.
How to Protect Yourself From Whaling
So, how can you protect yourself from whaling attacks? Well, the best way is to be vigilant and skeptical about any email that asks you for confidential information or to click on a link. If an email seems suspicious, do not hesitate to reach out to the sender to verify its legitimacy.
However, this is easier said than done when it comes to whaling attacks. You see, due to the nature of these scams, the perpetrators often go to great lengths to make their emails look as legitimate as possible. They may even include specific details about the target’s company or personal life to add an air of authenticity.
As a result, it can be difficult for people to determine whether an email is actually from their boss or a scammer. Therefore, in addition to being vigilant, try the following security measures:
Prioritize Security Awareness Training
The best way to defend your organization against whaling attacks is to help educate your employees. By conducting security awareness training, you can teach them how to identify scams and prevent data breaches at the same time.
You should conduct this type of training regularly so that people are always up-to-date on cybercrime techniques. This way, when any of your employees receive an email that looks suspicious, they will know how to approach the situation.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication
To ensure your employees are really who they say they are, you should require multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all of your accounts. This means that in addition to entering a password, employees would also need to provide a security code sent to their phone or email.
Consider Implementing New Policies Related to Out of Band Transactions
Another way to protect your business from whaling is by implementing policies related to out-of-band transactions and other executive requests. For example, you could require that all requests for funds or information be made in writing and routed through specific channels.
This will help to ensure that any requests that seem out of the ordinary are appropriately vetted before being acted on.
Warn Executives Against Sharing Personal Information Online
Cyber attackers stop at nothing in their quest to steal sensitive data, and executives are a prime target. Therefore, it’s important to warn your executives against sharing any personal information online, including social media platforms.
Attackers can use even seemingly innocuous details like home addresses and dates of birth to gain access to corporate networks or email accounts.
Invest in Cloud Email Security
If you haven’t already, it’s also a good idea to invest in cloud email security solutions that can help to protect your business from whaling attacks.
These solutions use artificial intelligence and machine learning to block spear phishing emails before they reach your employees’ inboxes. They can also help you track and report suspicious emails, so you can take action quickly
Cybercrime is at an all-time high, and whaling is a significant cause for concern. Through this attack, cybercriminals can target high-level executives and gain access to sensitive data.
Therefore, it’s essential to have the proper security measures to protect your organization from these attacks.
Additionally, educating your employees on cybersecurity best practices will go a long way towards preventing cybercrime from occurring within your organization. Most importantly, be vigilant regarding emails and always be suspicious of any unsolicited messages.