Whaling and Social Engineering Attacks

Learn how to recognize whaling attempts before they damage your business. Protect your NY or NJ business with help from Tekie Geek.

Whaling: When Phishing Attacks Aim for the Top

If you manage a small or medium-sized business, you may have received phishing emails before. An email might look legitimate, but in reality, a scammer is trying to get recipients to click on a link or download an attachment, or even just reply with sensitive information. But did you know that certain phishing attempts target CEOs and other high-level employees? Learn about whaling attacks in this guide from Tekie Geek, a top provider of managed IT and online security services for businesses in New York and New Jersey.

What Is a Whaling Attack?

Whaling is a type of social engineering attack called phishing, which uses fraudulent communications that appear legitimate to trick recipients into sharing sensitive data or downloading malware. General phishing attacks cast a wide net – they might be sent to an entire department, branch, or organization.

Whaling attacks, in contrast, target a specific person – usually a company leader like a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Financial Officer (CFO). There often is more publicly available information about these targets that attackers can use. Because they’re in leadership positions, they have access to more confidential information or higher access and privilege levels than the average employee.

The Purpose of a Whaling Attack

The goal of a whaling attack is always to gain access to personal information or sensitive company data. The attacker may be seeking:

  • Access or control: Some attacks trick victims into providing a username or password. The hacker then uses these credentials to access other parts of a company’s network.
  • Money: A criminal may impersonate a C-suite employee to trick a victim into transferring or wiring money.
  • Intellectual property: A hacker may steal a company’s IP or trade secrets and sell them to a competitor.

How to Recognize a Whaling Attack

A successful whaling scam can damage your reputation, interrupt your business operations, and even cause your company to lose money. Unfortunately, businesses of all sizes, even small and medium-sized operations, can be targeted in spear phishing attempts. Learning to recognize common red flags can help you protect your employees. Common features of a whaling attack include:

  • A request to wire money to an account or share private information.
  • A sense of urgency that makes the recipient feel as though they have to respond immediately.
  • Hints of potential negative consequences, such as closing an account or losing access to a service
  • Spelling changes or grammatical errors, such as email addresses that are off by one letter.

Best Practices for Email Security

Don’t let phishing attempts interrupt your business operations. Use these tips to prevent your company from falling prey to social engineering scams:

  • Don’t click: If you receive an email that seems suspicious, never click on a link in the message or download an attachment.
  • Don’t panic: These types of phishing attempts often prey on a sense of urgency by manufacturing a time-sensitive request or demand.
  • Verify emails: Some whaling attempts make it look like a high-level staff or board member is making a request, such as transferring funds. Always verify these demands over the phone.
  • Restrict personal information: Attackers often include personal details to make phishing emails seem legitimate. Encourage employees to keep their social media accounts private.

Using Secure Email Services

While employee training and awareness are valuable, the best protection is a strong cybersecurity program. At Tekie Geek, we offer secure email services to keep your company safe without compromising on efficiency. Our team can detect ransomware, filter out potentially dangerous emails, and investigate phishing attempts and other incidents. We also use email encryption and password management tools to help keep your employees safe.

Get in Touch With the IT Superheroes at Tekie Geek Today

For tailored IT services designed to support small and medium-sized businesses, turn to Tekie Geek. Serving companies throughout New York and New Jersey, Tekie Geek offers cutting-edge managed IT solutions, including 24/7 monitoring to detect and contain threats. And beyond secure email services, we provide business continuity services to help you get back up and running if your data is compromised. Ready to learn more? Give us a call at 347-830-7322 or contact us today.

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