Whaling attacks are some of the most common forms of cyber security attacks. Cybercriminals who conduct whaling attacks target specific individuals working in specific organizations. The attackers then carry out a sustained attack against the people with the aim of gaining access to their personal details. It is through the personal data of the high-ranking individuals that the hackers hope to get access to the entire system of the organization. Here are details on how hackers carry out this type of attack.
What are whaling attacks?
Whaling attacks are a unique form of phishing attacks. The term ‘whaling’ is a smart play on the sound of the word ‘phishing.’ Hence, whaling attackers usually target specific individuals working in a particular organization. This is an important characteristic of whaling since it differentiates it from the common phishing attacks. Under phishing attacks, the attackers target a large number of individuals. The attackers do not take a lot of care to select their targets. Also, the attackers do not intend to use the specific people to gain access to specific organizations when they carry out standard phishing attacks.
Through email messages
Hackers carry out their attacks by using fraudulent emails, which they make to look like from reliable sources. The objective is to deceive the victims of the attacks to reveal confidential information. To make the email look trustworthy, they personalize the emails to reveal information about the target such as his or her job titles, names, and other confidential information.
They also give the source of the whaling mail some credibility by including the addresses of legitimate companies or organizations, corporate logos, and others that will make the victim feel the mail is from a business partner, government agencies, or their banks. Many unsuspecting CEOs have been subjected to this effective attack when they try to open or reply such malicious messages.
Through malicious websites
Sometimes, the potential victim may receive information from a website that seems genuine. The target may ask to click a link to get more of the information or have access to some valuable information that may be useful. That is the bait. When the target clicks this link, his login credentials will be transfer and later used against him or her.
This is because instead of linking to a legitimate website, the target CEO will find him or herself on the hacker’s website. Where everything has been put in place to collect the confidential information from such an unsuspecting CEO. Without any feeling of suspicion, useful pieces of information are then gather for their evil intentions.
How do they get their information?
Before attacking an unsuspecting victim, the hackers will collect all the valuable information about him or her. Most times, they get the information from the target’s social media account such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
They may also profile the company information of their victim and collect useful information like job details, business partners’ names, coworkers’ names, and other information they find useful. They will later use the gathered information to create the seemingly legitimate email information that will serve as bait for the potential target.
Dangers of whaling attacks
One of the main dangers of whaling attacks is that the attackers can easily gain access to company systems when they successfully trick an individual employee. Also, given the nature of these attacks, the attackers take the time to carry out the attacks. The commitment of the attackers increases their chances of success. Lastly, through whaling attacks, criminals can cause substantial damage to organizations as well as individuals.
How to protect yourself
You can protect yourself from whaling attacks using several ways. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Avoid responding to email messages which you cannot recognize the sender.
- Do not ever download files or click on links you find on suspicious-looking emails.
- Avoid sharing confidential information about you or the company via email.
In conclusion, it is easy to protect yourself against whaling attacks. The best strategy is to make it impossible for the attackers to gain access to your personal information. Given that whaling attackers usually target specific individuals and take the time to carry out their attacks. You need to be on the lookout all the time.