Terms Glossary

Whaling Phishing Attack

What is a Whaling Attack?

Whaling is considered a more targeted form of spear phishing. It is a highly targeted attack – typically aimed at senior executives or “C” level staff. The attack generally masquerades as a legitimate email, phone call, and more complex attacks simultaneously. Whaling is digitally enabled fraud through the use of social engineering. Its primary goal is to encourage victims to perform a secondary action, such as relinquishing access to financial information, sensitive corporate data, or initiating a wire transfer of funds.

Whaling does not require extensive technical knowledge, and it can deliver huge returns to the attacker. As such, it is one of the most significant risks businesses can face. Financial institutions and payment services are the most at risk. However, there has been an overall increase in every business sector.

Whaling emails are significantly more sophisticated than generic phishing emails as they often target 'c-level' executives using personalized information.  They convey a sense of urgency, generally indicate some form of consequence happening, and are crafted with an intimate understanding of both the business and individual targeted. 

As with most targeted attacks, the goal of the attacker is generally financial gains of some form. However, these targeted whaling attacks can also be used to cause reputational damage, loss of business, or used as part of a more complex attack chain.

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