Why Do Hackers Target Businesses? 

5/5 - (1 vote)

why do hackers hack blog post header

3 Reasons Your Business Is At Risk From an Attack 

Brief: In this article, we look at why hackers do what they do. We explore hackers’ goals, what they want, and how hackers make money. We dig deep and answer the question, “why do hackers hack.” Understanding the motivation is fundamental to securing your business from attacks. 

 “Things are only impossible until they’re not.”
— Captain Picard, Star Trek

It seems impossible that your business could be targeted by a cyber attack.

And, given the recent rise of cyber events, it might seem like your newsfeed is all “hackers hackers hackers.”

Yet, have you ever wonder why do hackers seem to particularly relish targeting businesses?

And here’s where you’re wrong: small businesses often mistakenly believe they are not targets for cyberattacks, which simply isn’t the case. 

See, hackers frequently employ what’s known as a “spray and pray” strategy, where they indiscriminately target a large number of systems or networks with the hope of finding vulnerabilities they can exploit. 

This approach doesn’t require the attacker to spend time or resources on targeting your specific business, which makes it just as vulnerable as larger ones to hacks.

The Small Business Risk of Being Hacked

Your small business may be particularly at risk because you might lack the resources for strong cyber security measures, and you might not have dedicated IT staff to handle security concerns.

This can make you an easier target for cybercriminals who are looking for the path of least resistance. It’s crucial for small businesses to recognize that they are indeed potential targets and to implement robust cyber security practices accordingly. 

Understanding Why Do Hackers Do What They Do

To combat attacks and protect our business, we need to fundamentally understand hackers. 

Just as a skilled shoemaker understands the details of the leather they craft, recognizing the motives behind hackers’ actions puts you a step closer to thwarting their digital onslaughts.

So, what makes your business a hacker’s prime target?

Let’s dig into this and unwrap the puzzling question of “why do hackers hack businesses?” once and for all.

Unravelling the Motives: Why Do Hackers Target Small Businesses?

  • Hackers primarily have financial gain in mind
  • Intellectual Property is another highly coveted asset
  • Intentional disruption of services is a key motive

Why Do Hackers Attack: Financial Gain

Cybercriminals often target businesses with the main intention of making a profit.

Businesses are treasure troves of sensitive data. Personal details of employees, financial records, customer data, and much more may all be held within the databases of a company.

Breaching a system and extracting this data gives the hacker a wealth of opportunities for fraudulent activities, primarily including identity theft and financial fraud. They might also sell the stolen data on the dark web, a lucrative market where information is traded for bitcoin. 

Another popular method employed by hackers for financial gain is ransomware attacks. In these instances, the hackers gain control of a business’s data and demand a ransom, often in the form of untraceable cryptocurrency, for its return. 

Why Do Hackers Attack: Intellectual Property Theft

Beyond financial motives, some hackers aim to steal the intellectual property (IP) of a company.

Intellectual Property can range from formulas and designs to strategies and customer lists. In the age of innovation and competition, such intellectual capital is a substantial driver of a company’s success and competitive edge. 

Thus, illegally obtaining such assets can considerably benefit rival companies or nation-states. Foreign competitors and governments may cyber-spy to accelerate their technological development or gain a competitive edge in the global market. 

Why Do Hackers Attack: Disruption Of Services

Yet another motive of hackers is to disrupt business operations intentionally.

This form of attack, commonly known as a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack, overwhelms your business’ resources, making its network, system, or applications unavailable to user traffic. From causing temporary inconvenience to long-term damage, these attacks could have a severe impact on a business’s bottom line and reputation. 

These disruptions might also be part of larger cyber warfare strategies aimed to cripple economies. Additionally, these attacks sometimes serve as a distraction, drawing attention away from other illicit activities happening simultaneously. 

Ultimately, understanding the motives behind these cyber-attacks could enable companies to better anticipate threats, thereby strengthening their security strategies and frameworks to safeguard their valuable assets.

How Do Hackers Hack Businesses? 

Hackers have a variety of techniques at their disposal to infiltrate businesses, and they often combine these methods to execute a successful breach. 

Here’s an overview of common strategies used:

Password Attacks

Using various techniques such as brute force, dictionary attacks, or credential stuffing, hackers attempt to crack passwords and gain access to systems.

SQL Injection

Attackers can use SQL injection to exploit a database-driven website by inserting malicious SQL code in a query to manipulate the database to reveal information.

Zero-Day Exploits

These are attacks that target unknown vulnerabilities in software or hardware, meaning the developers have had “zero days” to address the issue.

Insider Threats

Employees or contractors with malicious intent can exploit their access to company networks and data to steal or cause harm.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing schemes are the “old faithful” of the cybercrime world. Established yet persistently effective, they exploit the human factor, which tends to be the weakest link in cyber security.

These attacks aim to deceive employees into revealing sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers. The attacker masquerades as a trusted entity, usually through deceptive emails, SMS or websites.

Spear Phishing

A spear-phishing attack is a sophisticated form of phishing that targets specific individuals, organizations, or businesses. Unlike regular phishing attacks, which are typically random and untargeted, spear phishing is highly personalized and involves gathering information about the target beforehand to increase the likelihood of success. 

Here’s how it typically works:

Target Identification: The attackers choose their target and research them extensively. This could be a high-level executive (sometimes referred to as “whaling”), an employee with access to critical systems, or a particular department within an organization.

Information Gathering: Attackers gather information about the target through various means – social media, public records, company websites, and other sources. This information helps in crafting a credible and convincing message that appears to be from a trusted source.

Crafting the Message: With the gathered information, the attackers create a message that is relevant to the target. This could be an email, a message on social media, or any other form of communication that the target is likely to trust and act upon.

Execution: The crafted message will usually include a malicious link or an infected attachment. The message is designed to create a sense of urgency or importance, prompting the target to take immediate action – such as clicking on a link, downloading an attachment, or providing sensitive information.

The Attack: If the target takes the bait, the attackers can gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, deploy malware, ransomware, or carry out other malicious activities.

Spear phishing attacks are particularly dangerous because they are hard to detect. They bypass many traditional security measures due to their personalized nature and often rely on social engineering techniques rather than brute-force or technical vulnerabilities. 

To defend against spear phishing, organizations must employ a combination of technical controls, regular security awareness training for employees, and robust incident response plans.

Malware Infections

From disrupting operations to holding your business data hostage, malware — a blend of “malicious” and “software” — is another critical threat to businesses.

Malware broadly falls into categories such as viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, spyware, and adware. Whether it’s a ransomware that locks you out of your system or a spyware quietly stealing your data, the result is always harmful.

Zero-Day Exploits

In the murky underground of cybercrime, ‘Zero-Day Exploits’ hold a high degree of dread. These involve exploiting a previously unknown vulnerability before developers can patch it. Rapid response and a well-updated system are crucial to fend off such attempts.

Denial of Service Attacks

A Denial of Service (DoS) attack can grind your business to a halt, rendering your services unavailable to customers. Attackers accomplish this by overwhelming your systems with a flood of unnecessary requests, effectively congesting your network.

Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks are an amplified form of DoS attacks. Orchestrated from multiple devices — forming what is known as a ‘botnet’ — these attacks can be much more destructive. The presence of a DDoS mitigation strategy is a must in today’s business. 

Exploiting Software Vulnerabilities

Hackers often exploit known security flaws in software that hasn’t been updated or patched. They can use these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access or to execute malicious code.

Social Engineering

Beyond just phishing, hackers use various forms of social engineering to manipulate people into breaking security procedures to gain access to systems or physical locations.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Hackers intercept and alter communication between two parties, stealing or manipulating the data for malicious purposes.

With a clear understanding of these prevalent hacking techniques, businesses can create a robust defense strategy effectively. After all, knowing your enemy is half the battle won.

The Impact of Hacking on Businesses

The impact of hacking on businesses can be extensive, ranging from immediate financial loss to long-term reputational damage. 

Here are several ways in which businesses may be affected by a hack:

Financial Losses

Falling victim to a hacker can be a costly affair for businesses. Not only does an organization have to deal with the immediate fallout, such as the theft of valuable data and disruption of services, but it also has to grapple with the financial implications of such breaches.

Hackers can use stolen data to wreak financial devastation. Exploitation of credit card information, bank details, and personal identity information extracted from databases leads to financial fraud. As a result, businesses end up replacing these financial instruments, absorbing the costs of fraudulent transactions, and dealing with the ensuing customer dissatisfaction.

Financial losses don’t stop at rectification measures. After a business has been hacked, it will likely need to invest in strengthening its security infrastructure to prevent future attacks. This includes purchasing cutting-edge security software and hardware, hiring cyber security experts, and training employees on data protection.

The Cost of Data Breaches

The costs of data breaches to small businesses can be quite significant. The average cost of a data breach globally reached around $4.35 million in 2022, an increase from previous years, and businesses in the United States faced higher average costs at $9.44 million. The healthcare and financial industries particularly see higher than average data breach costs.

Small businesses may face a multitude of costs associated with a data breach. For companies with fewer than 500 employees, the average cost is estimated at $2.98 million. The repercussions of a breach are not just financial; they can include legal, regulatory, and reputational damages that might affect the business’s future operations and value. Cyberattacks also often lead to indirect costs, such as downtime, loss of productivity, and negative impacts on employee morale​.

It’s not uncommon for the costs of cyberattacks to be passed on to consumers, with many affected businesses raising their prices to cover the expenses related to the incident. Furthermore, almost half of small businesses do not allocate any budget for cyber security, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. This vulnerability can be costly as the funds acquired from a number of small businesses can easily add up to significant amounts for cybercriminals, and small businesses are not always well-positioned to recover from such an attack due to weaker security measures. The impact can be so severe that, in 2020, attacks against small businesses amounted to $2.8 billion in damages​ (Source)​.

A staggering 95% of cyber security incidents at SMBs (Small to Medium Businesses) cost between $826 and $653,587. Recovery times can be lengthy, with 50% of SMBs reporting it took them 24 hours or longer to recover from an attack. Nearly 40% of small businesses reported the loss of crucial data, and about half of the businesses affected by ransomware end up paying the ransom, often without the aid of cyber insurance​ (Source).

Considering these figures, it is crucial for small businesses to understand the importance of cyber security, the potential costs of breaches, and to take proactive steps to protect their operations.

Damage to Reputation

Hacking doesn’t just impact your business financially; it can also devastate your reputation. When an organization suffers from a data breach, its customers and partners invariably suffer, too. Not only is their data at risk but the trust they placed in the company to safeguard their information is violated.

Reputation damage following a data breach can take a considerable toll on customer trust and loyalty, costing businesses valuable clientele. In an age where consumers increasingly value privacy and data protection, a single data breach can deter potential clients, making it longer and more costly for businesses to acquire new customers.

The Ripple Effect of Reputation Damage

The ripple effect of reputation damage can be long-lasting. Potential partners may think twice about partnering with a company known to have experienced a data breach. The media attention such incidents garner can also taint a firm’s public image for years, hindering its ability to attract top talent, which further exacerbates financial losses.

Aside from financial losses and reputational damage, businesses targeted by hackers also face severe legal consequences. Violations of data protection laws can result in hefty fines, litigation, and regulatory sanctions. This includes but is not limited to, proceedings initiated by government bodies, class action lawsuits by affected customers, and penalties for non-compliance with industry-specific regulations.

Preventive Measures: How Businesses Can Protect Themselves from Hackers

Employee Training

Staff training acts as a primary defense against cyber-attacks. If employees aren’t informed about safe online behavior, they can be an easy gateway for hackers.

Businesses should implement regular cyber security training sessions. These sessions need to cover aspects like identifying phishing attempts, using strong, unique passwords, and avoiding suspicious online activity. Incorporating cyber security awareness into the corporate culture will make employees less susceptible to hacks. At the same time, employees will feel more confident, valued and trusted, promoting overall job satisfaction.

Regular System Updates

Up-to-date systems are less vulnerable to cyber threats. Regular system updates act as an inoculation against potential viruses or malicious attacks.

Many businesses overlook this crucial step, unaware of the potential dangers. Outdated software often comes with security flaws, which hackers are quick to exploit. As businesses have numerous endpoints (servers, computers, mobile devices), maintaining updates on all devices can be a challenge. However, automating system updates can ensure they are performed regularly and without fail.

Automation of System Updates

Automation tools can schedule and execute updates without human intervention. These tools can lighten the IT team’s workload while reducing the chances of overlooking any critical updates.

Professional Cyber Security Services

Sometimes, despite employee training and scheduled system updates, businesses might fall prey to more sophisticated cyber-attacks due to a lack of technical expertise.

Professional cyber security services can prove to be a game changer. Providing specialist knowledge and tools, they offer an additional layer of defence. They monitor your business’s online environment continuously, detecting and mitigating potential threats before they can impact your operations.

To conclude: prevention is key to securing a business’s digital environment. Employee training, regular system updates, and hiring professional cyber security services are practical steps towards a robust defence against hackers.

Your move, hackers. Now, who said business security needed to be a checkmate?

Understanding the Basics: What is Hacking?

Definition of Hacking

Despite widespread misconceptions, hacking isn’t exclusively about nefarious individuals breaking into systems for malicious purposes. Hacking, in its most basic form, is the act of exploiting system vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access or control. Originally, the term ‘hacker’ referred to skilled programmers, who could manipulate software to perform tasks beyond what was initially intended.

However, as technology has spread and evolved, so has the nature of hacking. Now, hackers often identify as one of two groups – those who use their skills with illicit motives and those who leverage their expertise to discover and seal potential cyber security loopholes. 

Types of Hackers

Following the misunderstanding of hacking lurks the misrepresentation of hackers. Not all hackers are created equally; various subsets have emerged, each with distinct objectives.

Black Hat Hackers

These hackers are the infamous culprits often portrayed in media. They exploit system vulnerabilities for personal or financial gain, not shying away from theft, fraud, or even cyberterrorism.

White Hat Hackers

Also known as ethical hackers, these professionals use their skills to find and fix potential security gaps. Businesses often employ them to enhance their cyber security infrastructure.

Grey Hat Hackers

Resting between ethical and malicious, these hackers may exploit system weaknesses without permission, but instead of causing harm, they reveal the vulnerabilities to the organisation involved.

It’s crucial to realise that the threat a hacker poses to a business depends heavily on their particular motives and objectives. 

The Evolution of Hacking

Over the years, hacking has been catapulted from niche subsets of the tech world right to the forefront of modern culture. Initially, hacking was the realm of passionate tech enthusiasts keen to explore the full capabilities of their hardware and software.

However, as the digital era has progressed, hackers have evolved beyond simple system explorers into a mix of cybercriminals, activists, and cyber security professionals. With technology deeply embedded in businesses, hacking has expanded from individual devices to multinational corporations, spawning a new age of threats such as ransomware, data breaches, and more.

Understanding the evolution of hacking is crucial to comprehend why and how hackers target businesses today.

Did We Sufficiently Answer Why Do Hackers Hack? Are You Ready? 

Defending Your Data: Making Sense of Hidden Hacker Motives

Hackers seek businesses due to valuable data, vulnerable security, and lucrative ransomware profits. Despite different targets, all share the same goal – exploiting weaknesses for gain.

Armed with this knowledge, it’s clearer than ever that your business is attractive bait for relentless digital predators. Strengthening your cyber security measures isn’t just an option; it’s a mandatory step to ensure survival and sustainability in an increasingly digital world.

This is your moment to reassess your current cyber security strategies. Do they truly match up to these evolving threats? Are your security systems robust enough to protect your valuable data? Is your team equipped with the necessary knowledge to defend against digital attacks?

Your digital defences are the only thing between a hacker’s motive and your valuable information. Commit to fortifying these defences because the cost of compromise is far greater than the investment in protection.

So, where do you stand in the face of these evolving cyber threats – a viable target or a formidable opponent? 

Protecting your business begins with a decision today.