Whaling Phishing Attack Examples: How to Avoid Them

Over the last decade, the cases of cyber-attacks have been on the rise with companies ranking the principal prey. While news on various data breaching methods abounds, the most common cybersecurity attacks are whaling phishing attacks.

These types of attacks earned their name owing to the size of targets. Unlike other attacks that target the broad audience, whaling phishing aims explicitly at big shots.

In this article, we delve into whaling phishing, various methods of execution, and how to defend yourself from whaling.

What is whaling (what is whaling phishing):

 Whaling phishing is when a hacker or an attacker decides to a specific audience, mainly CEO, Business Owners, or Managers who manage more giant corporations. Like other phishing techniques, the attacker uses emails and website spoofing techniques to manipulate their targets into doing what they desire.  

Among the most common cybersecurity breaches, phishing ranks top of the list. While many phishing methods aim for smaller and less specific targets, some target a select group.

Among the more specific attacks, whaling targets the big fish and manipulate those in lower positions. For instance, a hacker may pose as a CEO and command a worker to carry out specific orders.

Owing to the respect for seniority, many employees yield to the commands resulting in huge losses. While it bears some similarity with spear phishing, cyber crooks often use whaling on companies.

To help you identify a whaling phishing attack, we discuss various whaling attacks and how to figure fraudulent tricksters out.

Frequent whaling attacks used by cyber tricksters

  1. Scenarios of urgent attention

A message from your boss is not a thing to take lightly. With this in mind, online fraudsters often pose as CEOs or other persons at the helm of leadership in an institution.

Often, the fraudsters ask one to carry out a transaction that is of urgency and focal to business operations. Among the common directives offered by fraudsters include making money transactions or confirming the credentials to accounts.

What makes whaling attacks dangerous is the mimicry that the cons use when sending emails. To ensure that your company is shielded from whaling attempts, have protocols in place for various activity.

Even more, insist on inter-department collaboration before taking instructions relayed to them. By doing this, one can ascertain the genuineness of commands and avoid phishing attempts.

  1. Legal action

Nothing would get one in the hot soup than making a decision which lands a company in legal action. As such, this ranks the go-to threat for scammers and cons alike.

To awaken your worst fear, you may receive an email of urgency requiring you to complete a form before a limited frame of time. Given the precision in research, the cons touch on pertinent issues affecting the company, thus appearing more genuine.

In other cases, they may also cloak themselves as a government institution submitting a set of requirements a company should adhere to. Like other email phishing attempts, you are advised not to open any links before confirming the sender.

To confirm the sender’s address, hover over links and check for alterations in the email address. If the email is from a known company, contact their customer service to ascertain the content.

Additionally, you are advised to have an antivirus that checks attachments to ensure they are malware-free.

  1. Image phishing

Whaling Phishing Attack Examples: How to Avoid

Whale phishing borrows all the ingenious tricks from the most common phishing practices. Among the practices that surpass typical firewalls is hiding malware in images.

For instance, an email may be sent to an employee containing material they have to work on urgently. By clicking material, malware may be mounted on the systems letting the cons take the action they wish.

To prevent this, ensure that you ‘don’t download attachments from unknown senders. Alternatively, open the links of business gadgets to prevent infecting the systems with malicious apps.

How to prevent whale phishing attacks

Among the tips for preventing whaling phishing include:

  • Limiting the information divulged by administrators- Since fraudsters often clone themselves as people in power, it is essential to keep a substantial amount of their information private.

To achieve this, administrators could limit the people that view their social media profiles. As such, fraudsters have little to go by when building a fake profile.

  • Identifying external emails- while phishers try hard to mimic a genuine link, their emails originate outside the corporates email. By marking this kind of emails, you help workers identify genuine emails.
  • Setting up protocols for various procedures. Since phishing attacks often aim for credentials and finances, companies require response channels.

In these channels, there should be a collaboration between various wings of the cooperation before taking action. For instance, if funds require to be moved, one would countercheck with other offices for such plans.

If none exist, you can call the administrator that fraudsters may pose as to confirm.

For legal action, companies should engage the mentioned departments to authenticate any emails delivered. By so doing, companies keep their finances and files secure from prying eyes.

  • Before downloading email attachments, users should countercheck the email address for anomalies. Most often, fraudsters will replace a letter or two in a manner that it appears almost similar to the original.
  • Before downloading attachments or selecting links, users should hover over links. Upon hovering over links, you can view the contents of a link, therefore, determining the destination.
  • Establishing a cybersecurity department- with hackers getting more sophisticated daily, being able to defend yourself calls for data protection skills. With expert data security engineers, you can establish firewalls to detect any malware in your networks.

By identifying threats in time, you can prevent dire effects of system malware.

Mock whaling phishing attacks

mock phishing attacks

To create awareness, a company could opt to set a mock whale phishing attack on workers. By gauging how the workers handle the mock attack, the company can discover the fields that require to be tightened.

In addition to tightening loopholes, the mock attacks keep workers on their toes and the lookout for anomalies in normal operations. However, these attacks need to be accompanied by proper emailing measures to tackle all loopholes.

For custom attacks, collaborate with your security firm or cybersecurity department.

Tightening communication within company procedures

Fraudsters often exploit weakly defined operating procedures. To repel attacks, having more stringent operational guidelines is of much essence.

When going about operation procedures, companies should consider protocols ranging from finance to communication. In all systems, there should be an authentication procedure to fix all loopholes for whaling phishing attacks.

While at it, lay standard procedures for third party finance remittance. Where possible, have protocols for urgent activities and proper communication between the involved departments.

Investing in anti-whaling software

The software for preventing whaling attacks is among the surest way to identify hidden malware. Although there is a mirage of apps for this purpose, however, you should determine quality applications from poorly built counterparts.

Also, ensure that the apps are from official sites as some phishers sell their counterfeits to tap data.

Red flags for whale phishing attempts

signs of whaling phishing attacks

  1. Wire transfers- all companies have protocols to follow before remitting payments. With whaling attacks, however, users are put at a compromise that requires a transfer to a new account.

To avert this, employees should gauge the transactions with a user for past affiliations. If none exist, employees should proceed with caution and avoid sharing any sensitive information.

  1. Urgency- while it is not foreign for companies to require some procedures to be handled fast, employees have to be wary with urgent requests.

Since urgency is the primary tool for whaling phishing attacks, employees should prevent rushed procedures. When asked to carry out urgent agendas, employees should contact the administrators to confirm the activity.

  1. Errors- among the items given primacy in official documents is grammar. With whaling phishing attacks, however, there are many alterations cloaked to appear legitimate.

To avoid falling prey of these attacks, be keen to notice any errors and differences from the original websites.

Differences Between Whaling Phishing, and Spear Phishing

While they hold some similarities, spear-phishing and wailing are different approaches. Unlike a whaling attack, spear phishing includes an attack designed for individuals.

Also, the attacks are direct and do not include any guidelines from your superiors. However, both attacks rely on cloning to convince victims of legitimacy.

While spear phishing yields small gains, whaling phishing attacks target big institutions for massive loots.


Whale phishing is among the common and most dangerous attacks used by fraudsters. Regardless of investment in security, a company without awareness is susceptible to attacks.

To repel a phishing attack, a company ought to invest in the education of workers as well as prevention apps. By following the tips offered above, companies can curb phishing and prevent losses.

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