Have You Been Hacked?

Hackers are increasingly in the news as hacking becomes big business and spreads its ransom demands into every industry. But can it be stopped?

The growth of hacking

Hacking is often associated with lone teenagers working from their bedrooms using technology to break into government or corporate security systems. But times are changing and it is now more likely to be carried out by a criminal gang or state backed entity with sinister and democratically destabilising motives. Russia, China and North Korea are the countries most associated with organised hacking in today’s climate, despite their repeated denials.

Business, government, universities, banks, law firms and even technology companies are targeted as criminals privately profit from stealing and selling private and professional data.

For those who have been hacked, there is a feeling of embarrassment, a reluctance to go public, and a financial loss to absorb; for those who have not yet been hacked, it is time to prepare as incidents are accelerating in all areas of activity.

Even though companies are in a position to plan in advance for the possibility of an attack, few properly prepare. And even when current technologies are used to avoid attacks, new technologies find flaws with practiced ease.

The shift to digital

The shift to a digital world has created a whole new terrain where even non-technology companies depend on technology to function. The threat of hacking is therefore germane to any organisation, regardless of size or scope.

Managers in today’s digital environment must be able to deal with the possibility of an attack as part of their general business skills. The ability to deal with an assault is no longer the singular remit of the IT department, as it now represents an everyday clear and present danger.

The playground of cyber crime, accessed through a special browser via the dark web, is largely unknown to those unfamiliar with such specialised deeds. But their shadowy and largely hidden territory is becoming more visible as greater numbers of people and companies are breached and exposed.

Prevention is of course the best solution but requires the up-skilling of current staff, the recruitment of new staff, or the contracting of expensive external expertise. But as is the case with any serious hazard managers must recognise the danger and put plans in place to avoid or minimise risk.

Businesses are always opportunistic, however, and so a new rapidly growing cyber security industry has sprung up to help companies repel unwanted intrusions. Entrepreneurs and investors are also pouring money into the space to create solutions in a war of skills that sees one side attack and the other defend in equal measure.

So, hacking has grown into a major, albeit illegal, industry and the only solution is prevention, which needs new skills and creates new opportunities.