Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When Online Attacks Are Beneficial

  • Although hacking attacks threaten company data and expose confidential information, they also reveal weaknesses in IT security and help businesses better prepare for future attacks. Recent hacking events have highlighted how companies can use hacking incidents to their advantage.

  • Although online security continues to improve, with breakthroughs in detection and defense, hackers continue to threaten the safety of companies’ information. Recent attacks by hackers like Anonymous, for instance, successfully shut down the sites of major businesses and government organizations, including the FBI. A recent article in the New York Times, titled “The Bright Side of Being Hacked” highlights not the damages caused by hackers, however, but the benefits that a hacker attack can provide.

    According to the article, most hacker attacks do not cause irreparable damage to a company or expose confidential information. Attacks do, however, reveal security damages in a company’s computer systems and employees poorly trained in smart computer habits. Weak passwords and insecure email are often the open doors hackers use to gain access to company info.
    “Any company that is patting themselves on the back and saying that they’re not a target or not susceptible to attack is in complete and utter denial,” Roger Cressey, senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, told the NYTimes. His company is a defense contractor whose computer systems were threatened during last year’s Anonymous attacks.
    At a recent conference, Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, addressed the reality of hacking threats. “There are only two types of companies,” Mueller said, according to the NYTimes, “those that have been hacked and those that will be.”
    The latest attacks also highlight a new trend in hacking called online espionage. In this type of attack, companies take advantage of computer vulnerabilities to discover information about competing firms.
    Hacking events, however, expose existing vulnerabilities in online security and help companies better protect themselves from future threats. If weak passwords are to blame, for instance, a business might host seminars for employees about how to ensure Internet security.
    Tracking how other companies are attacked can also better prepare businesses to protect themselves from hackers. Since recent attacks, for example, take advantage of unencrypted email accounts, companies might work to improve email security.
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