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Whaling is a specific kind of malicious hacking within the more general category of phishing, which involves hunting for data that can be used by the hacker. In general, phishing efforts are focused on collecting personal data about users. In whaling, the targets are high-ranking bankers, executives or others in powerful positions or job titles.
Hackers who engage in whaling often describe these efforts as "reeling in a big fish," applying a familiar metaphor to the process of scouring technologies for loopholes and opportunities for data theft. Those who are engaged in whaling may, for example, hack into specific networks where these powerful individuals work or store sensitive data. They may also set up keylogging or other malware on a work station associated with one of these executives. There are many ways that hackers can pursue whaling, leading C-level or top-level executives in business and government to stay vigilant about the possibility of cyber threats.