Hacktivism: A Growing Threat
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Guard Against Hackers
Hacktivism has been around for several years in some form or fashion. However, 2011 was the year this type of hack really came into the public eye. Groups like Anonymous and WikiLeaks, and spin-offs like LulzSec, seemed unstoppable in their number and scale of hacks. Fast forward to 2015, and the trend of hacktivism-style attacks continues to grow with no indication it will slow down anytime soon.
So what is hacktivism and what makes it different from other hacks? Well, the most basic definition is the act of breaking into a computer system for a socially or politically motivated purpose. What makes it different is the hacker isn’t in it for profit; they’re trying to make a statement, challenge a company or government, disrupt operation or embarrass groups who go against their moral stance.
There were two great examples of this type of hack in recent years. The first was against Sony Entertainment in regards to their movie, “The Interview.” North Korea attacked Sony Entertainment over the release of the movie due to its plot about assassinating the North Korean leader. For Sony, the damage was primarily due to the hacker’s release of damaging executive emails and their theft of sensitive employee data. To date, it’s cost Sony approximately $35 million in investigation and remediation costs as well as the jobs of a few executives.
The second incident happened to the extramarital affair website, Ashley Madison. A group called the Impact Team demanded that Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, discontinue website operations and service as the site promotes immoral activities. The website wasn’t discontinued and the hackers released company internal documents and emails, along with the personal information of 39 million users. The company now faces a nearly $600 million class action law suit.
Many people have an opinion in regards to how much of an issue there is with companies being outed for making negative comments and promoting extramarital affairs, but what happens when the attack focuses on other organizations like faith-based companies, churches and educational institutions? They could become targets of hacktivists who disagree or are opposed to the institution’s religious mandate. Traditionally, faith-based organizations have been soft targets as many operate on an open source network to share ideas and to foster collaboration. This open and inviting network structure is ideal for cyber criminals to access and steal sensitive information. The cost to the organization can be significant, but just as important is the potential damage to the organization’s reputation.
However, a few simple steps can be taken to secure your company and lessen the impact should a hacktivist attack occur. First, understand what sensitive data you’re storing and how you’re doing so. Then, secure it by restricting access and utilizing network security software. Finally, implement a breach response plan to assist in effectively managing an attack.
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- Cyber & Privacy Liability Series: Part 1
- Cyber & Privacy Liability Series: Part 2
- Cyber Liability E-Book
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