Work in finance or accounting? Watch out for 'whaling' attacks

These emails are tricky to detect, security firm Mimecast warns

If you work in finance or accounting and receive an email from your boss asking you to transfer some funds to an external account, you might want to think twice.

That's because so-called "whaling" attacks -- a refined kind of phishing in which hackers use spoofed or similar-sounding domain names to make it look like the emails they send are from your CFO or CEO -- are on the rise, according to security firm Mimecast.

In fact, 55 percent of the 442 IT experts Mimecast surveyed this month said their organizations have seen an increase in the volume of whaling attacks over the last three months, the firm reported on Wednesday.

Those organizations spanned the U.S., U.K., South Africa and Australia.

Domain-spoofing is the most popular strategy, accounting for 70 percent of such attacks, Mimecast said; the majority pretend to be the CEO, but some 35 organizations had seen whaling emails attributed to the CFO.

“Whaling emails can be more difficult to detect because they don’t contain a hyperlink or malicious attachment, and rely solely on social engineering to trick their targets,” said Orlando Scott-Cowley, a cybersecurity strategist with Mimecast.

Often, sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter give attackers the details they need to execute whaling attacks, Mimecast said.

So what's an accountant to do? Mimecast has a few suggestions.

Educating senior management, key staff and finance teams is one of them; another is conducting tests on your own business through mock whaling attacks to see how vulnerable your staff are.

Inbound email stationery that marks emails originating outside the corporate network can be another useful tool, as can domain name registration alert services, which will alert you when domains are created that closely resemble your company's.

“The barriers to entry for whaling attacks are dangerously low," said Scott-Cowley. "As whaling becomes more successful for cybercriminals, we are likely to see a continued increase in their popularity."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?