Hacking is a term which appears frequently in the media these days, and more and more frequently we hear tales of individuals and even high-profile organisations which have fallen victim to hackers.
So, what does it actually mean to be hacked? Hacking means that somebody has gained unauthorised access to an account or service, which then enables the hacker’s own code to be inserted onto a site. The way in which that code behaves and the effect that it produces will depend on the intentions of the hacker, however the implications could be extremely serious including:
- Complete shut down of a website
- Replacement of company content with obscene or inappropriate messages
- Viruses will install themselves on the computers of those who visit the site
- Visitors will be redirected to other sites set up by the hackers where they may then be subject to identity fraud
- The website will be used to attack other sites in order to bring them down
Of course, while the attack itself can cause disruption and chaos for the organisation, the damage to its reputation can be long-lasting, and the potential for large fines can also be financially crippling.
One of the greatest problems with hacking is that it can often go unnoticed for many weeks or even months. In fact, statistics have shown that the average amount of time taken to spot a cyber attack is 140 days, during which time a huge amount of data will have been exposed and put at risk.
How Common A Problem Is Hacking?
Although most individuals and companies are aware of the potential problems that could be caused by hacking, a surprising number still become victims. The BBC reported last year that 1 in 5 companies had suffered from a cyber-attack, with the majority being large organisations with more than 100 employees.
Cyber crime is a huge problem for individuals and businesses of all sizes, and no company is safe from hacking. There have been many household names involved in highly publicised incidents over the last couple of years where customers’ details and other sensitive information was put at risk.
In recent times, Tesco Bank had to report that they had lost over £2 million in a security breach, while payday loan company Wonga found that 250,000 customer records had been seized by cyber criminals. Even the NHS hasn’t been exempt, with a third of trusts having reported ransomware infection and a Trojan virus having caused major disruption at Barts Health Trust in January 2017.
How Do Cyber Attacks Happen?
Cyber attacks are said to cost businesses in the UK £34 billion per year, however preventing them means constantly staying on top of security procedures. Cyber criminals are always adapting and changing their methods to exploit weaknesses in security systems, and having any vulnerability in a website’s coding means that all of the information it contains is at risk.
How Do You Prevent Hacking?
Hacking can be prevented by making sure that any vulnerabilities in a company’s computer systems are spotted and rectified before cybercriminals can exploit them. This can be done by using a phishing service or pen testing service that will identify areas of concern. The Cyber Essentials scheme will also help companies to maintain a high level of security on their website for the best level of protection.