Defending Against Hacks No Longer Optional

Computer hacks have become front-page news, but they become a very personal headache for businesses of all sizes unless you take steps to prevent cyberattacks or phishing.

Computer hacks have become front-page news, but they become a very personal headache for businesses of all sizes unless you take steps to prevent cyberattacks or phishing.

Hacking has become a front-page headline-grabber, but it also can be a very local headache for companies and individuals that get hacked. Hacking prevention needs to be on the agenda of many companies and high-profile nonprofits and individuals.

Cyberattacks have become commonplace and can wreak havoc with business operations, customer relationships and investor relations and expose companies to media coverage and legal actions.

After concluding a $25 billion deal to buy St. Jude Medical, Abbott Laboratories issued a software patch for the acquired firm’s heart implants, which the Food and Drug Administration warned were susceptible to hacking. A private investment firm had raised concerns a year ago about the potential for hacking, which St. Jude and Abbott dismissed as untrue.  The same firm now has questioned whether the software patch is sufficient.

You can appreciate how all that might cause palpitations in patients with St. Jude heart implants.

Yahoo was embarrassed by reports of massive hacking into its database, involving personal information of millions of users. American companies have routinely complained about industrial espionage conducted by hackers to gain access to proprietary technology and processes. Other publicized hacks accessed health records, bank accounts and, in the case of Ashley Madison, acts of adultery by married people.

And those are just the hacks that made into the public limelight. There have been thousands more that caused their own turmoil and resulted in personal or corporate losses. And a growing number of cyberattacks target small businesses, which often are defenseless.

When hacks occur, they can turn into crisis communications nightmares. So it makes sense to include strong protections against hackers as a best practice for businesses or high-profile nonprofits and individuals. Taking steps to bock cyber-intrusions also should be part of reputation management and crisis prevention plans.

Many companies possess sensitive information, including customer databases, which should not be undervalued. Intellectual property can be another prime target. Hacking also can be aimed disrupting services, which could cast a shadow of the reliability of a service or a business. And a hack in one company can migrate to a problem for another, as the breach of credit-checking company Experian did for 15 million T-Mobile cell phone customers.

Taking steps to prevent a crisis is usually the best crisis response. Protecting your cyber-flank has emerged as one of those important preventive actions you should consider.

Delaying because IT continues to evolve isn’t a very good defense if you get hacked. It’s like letting you teeth decay while waiting for a better toothpaste. Do what you can now and continue to monitor state-of-the-art improvements in cyber defense. Customers, stakeholders and other businesses expect companies with sensitive data to protect it. If you don’t, expect to be attacked by more than just hackers.