Internet Tips

What is whale phishing?

Many different types of phishing attacks take place out there in the world. Out of those phishing attack types, whale phishing has received much attention. According to, thousands of people and companies have become victims of whale phishing, resulting in frustration and financial losses.

Phishing, Spear-phishing and Whaling - what's the difference?

Define phishing scam

Phishing scams take place to trick the targeted individuals and companies into achieving financial gains in the long run. For example, a specific company’s employees can be sent emails representing the senior management while asking them to donate to a particular charity. If the employees don’t double-check and make donations, they will put their money into a scammer who sent the phishing mail.

What is whale phishing?

There is a strong relationship between phishing and whale phishing. Whale phishing is a targeted attempt to steal sensitive information belonging to a company. Here, the hackers are interested in getting employees’ personal data or their financial reports. They do it for malicious reasons.


Usually, the whale phishing attacks typically target the company’s senior management, who have access to all the information scammers seek. In other words, CEOs, CFOs, and other top-level executives become victims of phishing whaling attempts.

This type of phishing attack is known as whaling due to the nature of its targets. In other words, the people engaged with whaling phishing are continuously looking for the whales to launch their campaigns. They pay careful attention when selecting the whales as well. That’s because they want to ensure they get the best possible results from the whale phishing efforts.

Are whale phishing attacks successful?

Yes, there is a high rate of success linked with whale phishing attacks. That’s mainly because the people who send out whale phishing emails become so careful that they make the fraudulent emails look like they originate from trusted sources. Due to this reason, the whales go ahead and open the emails without thinking twice. They realize they have become victims of a whale phishing attack only after their sensitive information is stolen.

The websites and emails used for whale phishing are extremely personalized. This is another prominent reason behind the high success rate linked with them. They include the whales’ names, basic details, and job titles as well. Hence, the communications legitimately take place. It has also been identified that the attackers are spoon-feeding email addresses and looking at corporate logos to make the attacks look like they are coming from trusted sources, such as banks, business partners, and government agencies.

The whale phishing attacks are somewhat difficult to identify compared to traditional ones. That’s mainly because the whale phishing emails are extremely personalized. Moreover, those emails are sent only to a few selected targets or whales. If you look at the whale phishing examples, you will figure out how they are being done.

Usually, the people in whale phishing engage with social engineering to get more information about their targets. Once all essential information is gathered, they go ahead with the attacks. Some of them use attachments or hyperlinks to infect the victims with malware. On the other hand, some use attachments or hyperlinks to gain access to their social information. Both these methods can lead the targets towards a lot of hassle and frustration in the long run.

With whale phishing, the hackers are provided with the opportunity to get their hands on extremely high gains. Hence, they don’t think twice before they spend too much time and effort on social engineering. It also provides them with many opportunities to consider in the long run. The attackers also use social media accounts, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, to get hold of the information that they need. Some useful details extracted from these social media networks include names of coworkers, job details, and company information. If they gather information as much as possible, they will guide the whale phishing attacks toward success.

Examples of phishing whaling attacks?

It is possible to find many different instances to point out as examples of phishing whaling attacks. If you look at all these examples, you will notice that they are quite difficult to detect as scams. When you look at what whaling is, you can easily figure out why it is.

In 2016, Snapchat became a victim of a whale phishing attack. As you know, Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms. One of the highly ranked employees at Snapchat was sent by email, impersonating the company’s CEO. This email asked him to expose all the employee payroll-related information. Since the email looked legitimate, the executive shared information with the scammer without thinking twice. It was a big blow for all the employees working for Snapchat. This incident was later reported to the FBI as well. To minimize the negative consequences created as a result of the incident, all the affected employees were provided with identity theft insurance for two years.

A similar indicated place at Seagate during 2016 as well. The phishing whaling emails were sent to both current and previous employees of the company. This email was related to W-2 forms. More than 10,000 employees were affected by this. As a result, many employees had to waste thousands of dollars on the scam.

About author

I work for WideInfo and I love writing on my blog every day with huge new information to help my readers. Fashion is my hobby and eating food is my life. Social Media is my blood to connect my family and friends.
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