Cybersecurity experts warn on ‘whaling attacks’

Cybersecurity experts have warned so-called ‘whaling attacks’, in which company CEOs are targeted by scammers, have tripled in the past year.

Whaling attacks are a form of phishing and one example is where criminals become aware that a CEO is out of the country and then impersonates them to ask for money from the company.

Typically it results in an instruction to staff to transfer money to a bank account but directs them not to contact the CEO directly.

Cybersecurity firm SmartTech247 has estimated that ‘whaling’ attacks have risen 200% in the last year alone.

SmartTech247 CEO Ronan Murphy said: “Knowledge is the best form of defence for cybersecurity attacks.”

Mr Murphy added that education was vital is ensuring higher levels of security to combat what he said was a “global issue”.

“In 2017 the cost of cybercrime to the global economy has been estimated at $500bn [€403bn],” he said. “It is widely accepted that cybercrime will continue its stratospheric growth over the next five years, and cybercrime damages will cost the world $6tn annually by 2021. This will mainly be driven by more insecure connected devices and the lack of basic cybersecurity practices.”

The head of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, including the Irish Financial Intelligence Unit, Det Chief Supt Pat Lordan, said information is now more valuable than money.

“We can’t stop all online fraud and cyber-enabled attacks but we can educate businesses and people to prevent them,” he said. “It’s not just big businesses that are being targeted, it’s companies of all sizes. Education is the way forward and is something we as an organisation are planning to do more of this year.”

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