Difference Between Spear Phishing and Whaling

They both are the type of E-mail Phishing attack that happens in this digital era where they steal data and money virtually. They both have some distinct features, as listed below:


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Key Takeaways

  1. Spear phishing targets specific individuals or organizations with personalized emails, while whaling targets high-profile individuals like executives and decision-makers.
  2. Both spear phishing and whaling use social engineering tactics to deceive victims and gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.
  3. Whaling attacks can have more significant consequences due to the high-value targets involved, resulting in larger financial losses or severe reputational damage.

Spear Phishing vs Whaling

Spear phishing is a targeted phishing attack that is directed at a specific individual or group. The attacker will often research their target to make the attack more convincing, using personal information. Whaling is a type of spear phishing attack that is directed at high-profile individuals.

Spear Phishing vs Whaling

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It is a kind of fraudulent practice via electronic communication towards a particular group of people. Cybercriminals use this method to steal banking data to siphon funds.

It is prominently known as a CEO attack in layman’s language. It targets only senior-level employees to take sensitive information about the business.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonSpear PhishingWhaling
FocusIn Spear Phishing the focus of theft is to steal corporate banking information.In Whaling the focus of theft is to steal trade secrets or admin data of an organization.
TargetIn Spear Phishing usually, the target is a specific group of individuals or a companyIn Whaling usually, the target is a high-level employee like CEO, COO, etc.
ActionAttacker design an email or message to attack in Spear Phishing.Attacker design a malicious URL to attack in Whaling.
PreventionSpreading awareness about Spear Phishing is a preventive measure for this.Always verify the URL before clicking and preventing Whaling.
LossIn Spear Phishing the victim loss their money stored in banks.In Whaling the victim loses its business secrets and confidential data of the company.

What is Spear Phishing?

Spear Phishing is one of the type of Phishing scans done online to cheat random people of a company. In Spear Phishing, the attacker mostly sends emails or SMS containing an illegal link to fill corporate net banking.

They mostly target the victim through electronic means of communication targeting a specific individual group, and sometimes they create malware in the victim’s computer to steal the amount.

Disguised emails are the weapon they use digitally to harm the victim virtually by stealing their banking data and performing a virtual theft. 

Staff credential, IPR rights, and financial data is generally collected under the Spear Phishing method of Phishing targeting middle-level employee by sending them fraudulent emails or SMS.

What is Whaling?

It targets high-level employees possessing all confidential data instead of low-ranking employees. A major focus of Cybercriminals in Whaling includes Cheif Executive Officers, Legal heads, marketing heads, Chief Operating Officers, or Compliance Officers.

In Whaling, attackers use personalized emails or websites to gain the trust of the victim and spend a lot of time preparing for this fraudulent activity or data scam. 

The attackers collect all possible information about management hierarchy to perform whaling fraud in an organization, and it can be prevented with the help of antivirus, malware, and other protective software so that if anyone is supposed to click any suspicious link, must ensure the verification of the link with the help of safety measures and to stop these virtual thefts.

Main Differences Between Spear Phishing and Whaling

  1. Designing: In Spear Phishing attacking emails are designed for a particular group of individuals or companies, whereas In Whaling, the attacking emails are designed for high-level officials or founders who have secret data.
  2. Subset: Spear Phishing is a subset of Phishing attacks in cybercrime, on the contrary, Whaling is a subset of Spear Phishing to attack celebrities, CEO, COOs, and founders.
  3. Value: Cyber Criminals attack a high-yield group of individuals to steal the virtual money of the company in Spear Phishing, and They attach High net worth/to-level personnel to steal trade data and business secrets.
  4. Example: Example for Spear Phishing – Email containing pending payment notification to fill in bank details and Example for Whaling – A well-designed email from the CEO to accounts asking for payroll data.
  5. Preparation: The Preparation time for a Spear attack may not take much time from the criminal side, and It takes a long study and preparation time for Whaling.
  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/7552043
  2. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8616482

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