Educating your business on the importance of cybersecurity

Top 5 Business Roles Targeted by Cyber Attacks and How to Mitigate Risks

Posted by Aaron R. Warner on May 8, 2024 11:55:45 AM
Find me on:


Cybercriminals in today's digital landscape employ sophisticated tactics to infiltrate organizations and steal valuable data. Specific business roles within companies often become targets of cyber attacks due to their access to sensitive information or ability to influence decision-making. These roles are also usually visible and known individuals in the public, and harvesting information can be used against them. It is much easier than going after the paranoid I.T. Guy!

Below we’ve listed the five most targeted business roles in cyber-attacks. We’ve also included common rationale behind the targeting, the information at risk, standard attack methods, and preventative measures. Even if you aren’t in these specific roles, there are some responsibilities that have overlap, and the preventative measures we’ve described can help you protect your organization’s data all the same.

1.  Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Why Are CEOs Targeted?

CEOs hold significant influence and decision-making power, making them prime targets for spear phishing attacks to initiate fraudulent wire transfers or obtain confidential business information.

Information at Risk

Strategic plans, financial data, merger and acquisition details, and personally identifiable information (PII).

Common Attack Methods

Business Email Compromise (BEC), spear phishing emails disguised as legitimate communications from colleagues, vendors, or partners. AI-based attacks are especially easy here because of the broad exposure most CEOs have online.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for email access, be cautious of unsolicited emails, verify sender information before responding, and educate employees on BEC and spear phishing tactics.

2.  Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Why Are CFOs Targeted?

CFOs have access to crucial financial data, making them attractive targets for attackers seeking to steal financial information or manipulate financial transactions.

Information at Risk

Financial statements, bank account details, payment information, and intellectual property related to financial strategies. HR systems and payroll are frequently targeted through the CFO’s office.

Common Attack Methods

Whaling attacks (highly targeted spear phishing emails impersonating senior executives), malware disguised as legitimate financial documents, and exploitation of vulnerabilities in financial software. Man-in-the-middle attacks where the attacker listens to conversations and then injects themselves into the wire transfers.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

Implement robust password policies and enforce regular password changes, be vigilant about suspicious attachments or links in emails, and conduct regular security audits of financial systems.

3.  General Counsel

Why Are GCs Targeted?

GCs possess sensitive legal documents, intellectual property details, and information on ongoing litigation, making them valuable targets for espionage or intellectual property theft.

Information at Risk

Contracts, merger agreements, trade secrets, patents, and information on ongoing lawsuits or investigations.

Common Attack Methods

Social engineering attacks exploit the GC's frequent communication with external parties and malware disguised as legal documents. Man-in-the-middle attacks where the attacker listens to conversations and then injects themselves into the wire transfers.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

Educate GCs and legal teams on social engineering tactics, avoid downloading attachments or visiting links from unknown sources, and utilize secure communication channels for sensitive information exchange.


4.  Human Resources (HR) Personnel

Why Are HR Personnel Targeted?

HR personnel manage employee information, including PII, payroll data, and benefits details, making them attractive targets for large-scale data breaches.

Information at Risk

Social Security numbers, bank account details, health insurance information, and personal employee data. Access to payroll information and employee account data.

Common Attack Methods

Phishing emails disguised as internal communications or legitimate HR forms, ransomware attacks targeting HR systems, and exploitation of vulnerabilities in HR software.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

Implement robust data security practices, restrict access to sensitive employee data based on the principle of least privilege, and train HR personnel on phishing, quishing, and social engineering tactics.

5.  Information Technology (IT) Staff

Why Are IT Staff Targeted?

IT staff have access to critical infrastructure and user credentials, making them potential targets for gaining unauthorized access to systems or deploying malware across the organization.

Information at Risk

System credentials, network configurations, security vulnerabilities, and access to user data.

Common Attack Methods

Phishing emails disguised as software updates or security alerts, and exploitation of unpatched vulnerabilities in IT systems.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

Implement robust password policies and enforce multi-factor authentication for all accounts, stay updated on the latest security patches and vulnerabilities, and be vigilant about suspicious emails or links.

Examples of the Most Common Attacks

Business Email Compromise (BEC)

A phishing attack is where the attacker impersonates a trusted individual or organization to trick the recipient into revealing sensitive information or performing a fraudulent wire transfer.

Spear Phishing & Whaling

A phishing attack targets a specific individual or group with personalized messages that appear to be from a trusted sender, often to steal login credentials or financial information. Whaling is a highly targeted form of spear phishing that targets senior executives or high-value targets by impersonating them and requesting sensitive information or financial transactions.


Malware is software created to harm or exploit computers, networks, or mobile devices. Malware can be disguised as legitimate software, documents, or emails to trick users into downloading or executing it.

Social Engineering

Social engineering attacks exploit human psychology to access sensitive information or systems. These attacks often involve impersonating a trusted individual or organization to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or performing a specific action.


Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim's files and demands a ransom payment for the decryption key. By understanding the motivations and tactics of cybercriminals, organizations can implement targeted security measures to protect individuals in these high-risk roles.


Topics: Cybersecurity, Data Breach, Data Security, Data Protection, cybersecurity plan, Ransomware

  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

ProCircular is a Full-Service Information Security Firm

We are passionate about helping businesses navigate the complex world of information security, and our blog is another great source of inforamtion. We can assist you no matter where you are in your security maturity journey:

  • Breached or hit with ransomware?
  • Don't know where to start? 
  • Looking to confirm your security with a third party?

Secure your future with ProCircular.

Recent Posts

Subscribe to Email Updates