Why Are High-Profile Individuals Targets of Whaling Phishing?

Whaling is a method where cyber criminals masquerade as senior players in a company to directly attack high-profile individuals, executives, or stakeholders in a senior position. Their primary goal is to steal money or sensitive information by luring a high-profile individual with an SMS, email, WhatsApp, and other messaging services.

Although these types of phishing attacks have been exposed numerous times, whaling phishing is still a threat to many individuals and organizations. According to research, attackers continue to create new tactics to increase success percentage and attack quality instead of blasting out bulk phishing messages. But why do they only attack high-profile individuals?

Better Access to Funds & Sensitive Data

One of the main goals of a whaling phishing attack is to extract money and sensitive information, such as payroll data, tax returns, or bank account numbers. An individual with a high status in a company has better access to funds and information, making them the primary targets for whaling phishing. The method uses email and text to trick the target into performing specific actions, such as transferring money or sharing sensitive data.

The best way to protect yourself and your company from this phishing attack is by being cautious of any email, link, or attachment you open. Watch out for any red flags indicating that you might be getting scammed.

Reduces Hassle of Bypassing Middleman


Whaling is a sophisticated type of spear-phishing attack, so attackers may want to improve their chances of success without failed attempts or wasting time bypassing the middleman. Since they are highly motivated to gain control, money, and sensitive data, they spend more time crafting the perfect threat and less time planting it.

It is still necessary for all team members to know how to identify a threat so that you can enhance your team’s phishing-detection skills with consistent training. This will also provide high-profile individuals and executives in the company to be prepared for an attack.

More Control Over Organization’s Network

When a hacker enters an organization’s network through someone in a high position in the company, it gives them better access to business operations. They may use the stolen credentials to open backdoors and create more opportunities for themselves.

Another purpose of the attack could be to steal intellectual property or other trade secrets to help competitors, leading to a loss of credibility and money. If you have access to essential data, using cybersecurity software that blocks whaling attack vendors might be necessary.

Personal Vendetta Against Someone

Sometimes, hackers use whaling phishing to target individuals for personal reasons. Whether it’s a competitor, an old partner, or someone you currently work with, their goal might be to extort your organization after data exfiltration or damage your reputation.

Although all hackers conduct research and trial methods before performing their attacks, you might be more vulnerable when someone with a personal vendetta targets you. Someone who knows you personally may be aware of the tricks to convince you to open an email or text, giving them an unfair advantage. In fact, a cybersecurity index by IBM in 2016 found that insiders carried out 60 percent of all attacks.

High-profile individuals with a high stake in a company are usually the primary targets of whaling phishing. The best way to protect yourself is by being cautious of what you open, brushing up on your phishing-detection skills, and using effective cybersecurity software that blocks whaling attack vendors.

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