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Compromised Data – What Do Cyberattackers Do With it?

Identified a data breach? Or worried about what would happen if you did find one?

What cyberattackers actually do with your compromised data is usually the scariest part of the cybersecurity equation. Identifying the potential goals of attackers will get you on your way to determining how to lock down that important data.

This is Part 3 in our cybersecurity special series. You can read Part 1: Cyberattacks: Different Types of Security Attacks and Part 2: Are you at risk of being a Cybersecurity Target? for an introduction to the topic.

Financial theft

If cyberattackers can gain access to financial accounts with compromised data, then this poses a real risk of theft. Consider the impact if attackers gain access to company financial accounts via credit card details, bank logins, etc. If customer credit card details are compromised, then this risk extends beyond company boundaries to customers, too.

This is one reason why you should never do things like send credit card details via plain text over email, or store customer financial data in an unencrypted state.

Identity theft

Let’s say that your financial accounts are all locked down, secured by 2FA or multi-factor authentication – or attackers didn’t find those details. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t able to use compromised data to steal funds. 

How? Let’s say they got into your HR system. In it, you might have employees’ details such as full names, DOBs, current and previous addresses, etc. With the right details, cyberattackers can steal identities to open new financial accounts using these details.

Even if they don’t use these details to commit financial fraud, they can potentially reach out to customers, others in the industry, etc. while impersonating someone within the company – which can potentially do a lot of damage.

Cyber extortion

Let’s say that the cyberattackers manage to find some juicy information in your systems. Perhaps it’s an offer of a merger that’s not yet public. Perhaps it’s evidence of an office affair over email. If they find anything that can be held against either the company and/or individuals within the company, then this leaves you open to potential blackmail attempts.

For example, in 2017, hackers leaked new episodes of Orange is the New Black after Netflix refused to stump up funds to prevent the release before the official streaming date. 

Holding data hostage

One of the newer ways that cyberattackers can do massive damage to businesses is by freezing systems and holding all your corporate data hostage – and it’s called ransomware.

If cyberattackers manage to encrypt all your precious data or log everyone out of important systems, then you’re up the river without a paddle.

For instance, just this week BBC reports that Norsk Hydro were the victims of a ransomware attack – that they refused to pay – which has so far set back the company around 80 million AUD. The same article cites a Florida town paying cyberattackers $600,000 USD to unfreeze their systems.

What’s worse is that there is no guarantee that data or systems will ever be released back to the business.

Competitive advantage

It’s not just straight up funds in the bank now that cyberattackers are always after. Sometimes, it’s a company’s IP that they are interested in. Why? To gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

A poll by CNBC Global CFO Council reports that 1 in 5 of the US CFO Council members polled said they had been the victim of data theft from Chinese companies in the recent past, with almost 70% of respondents unsure.

Your IP is what makes your company, and if competitors get access to it, they can potentially get an edge over you.

Sell it to competitors

So, maybe the cyberattackers don’t want your IP for their own gains. That doesn’t mean that they can’t shop it around to your competitors. Not everyone has the same morals in business – which leaves you open to indirect attacks from competitors.

Destroy it

It’s not just scorned lovers who might be out for revenge. Could someone out there hate your company or the higher ups enough to want to sabotage it and ruin your business and/or reputation?

Consider the Olympic Destroyer attack, where “Russian hackers, with hardly a shred of deniability, targeted the Pyeongchang Olympics for months in retaliation for the country’s doping ban, stealing and leaking documents from Olympics-related organizations.” (via Wired)

What’s next?

If you want to stay safe out there as a business you won’t want to miss next week’s edition in our cybersecurity series that will detail How to prevent being hacked or how to mitigate a breach; tips, tools, and tactics. 

A1 Technologies are providers of managed cyber security solutions that are tailored to SMBs just like yours. If you are concerned about your business’s cybersecurity (which all businesses should be!) then get in contact with us for a preliminary consult.

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