How hacking & cyber attacks affect business

Data in transit or storage is vulnerable to outside interference. We call such interference, cyber attacks, which can take on many forms. Two major areas of concern are hacking and Distributed Denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.


“Hacking” is the deliberate exploitation of a computer system or network to gain access to data. Hackers breach computers and networks for a variety of reasons, but a few of their most common goals are:

  • Gaining access to financial accounts in order to steal money
  • Seeking confidential information, such as trade secrets and intellectual property
  • Causing general mayhem

Hacking is difficult to eradicate because the methods of attack are always evolving. While off-the-shelf protection software can help, it’s not a guaranteed defense against a hacking attempt.


DDoS attacks are gaining much publicity throughout the world; that of willful, physical attacks on data infrastructure as well as against hardware connected to systems for the purpose of shutting down large segments of industry and commerce.

We are already experiencing increasing intrusions from DDoS attacks blocking the computer systems of targeted businesses by flooding them with massive amounts of communication requests. DDoS describes a computer system so congested that it is rendered useless.

In addition to hacking and DDoS attacks, malware is a major concern for anyone with a computer.


Malware is an expression for malicious software programming that is introduced into a computer system for destructive reasons. Cyber attacks sometimes start in a low-key manner using malware; a reasonable instruction appears on your computer screen, and clicking on the “recommended” response opens the door for the hacker to enter your system.

The malware may not itself affect the system but may pave the way for a hacker by manipulating the operator’s software so the computer welcomes a second attack later. This type of malware vehicle is called a Trojan horse, making use of a seemingly innocent means of entry.


A computer virus is a type of malware. Like a biological virus, it spreads, but to do so requires operator action, such as forwarding a tainted email to another computer in the system.

Many viruses are sent along as a result of the operator’s wish to share a website with contacts, copying and pasting the web address into the email to save time. This is called “phishing.” The hacker plants a remote access tool – known as a RAT – that can obtain an array of information including your password.

Among viruses, more pervasive, however, are the actions of a “worm.” Its name and means are descriptive as it burrows its way through a computer system, rendering not only software but hardware unusable, usually resulting in a total loss of data.

Cyber warfare

An ominous trend has developed in recent years in the world of cyber attacks. Many large corporations, and even governments, have been stricken without any indications of imminent action. The severity of the attacks has escalated to a point where we may have to refer to some of these as cyber war.

Additionally, there are indications that national governments have initiated actions for political or strategic advantage. What governments can do now, radicals can emulate in the very near future. Activist groups such as Anonymous have proven that they can do this already.

Attacks are inevitable

Most companies are not equipped to tackle hackers. That is particularly true in the aftermath of a cyber event. The magnitude of the damage could be extensive and as recent experience has proved, complicated and slow to investigate.

All businesses should have a disaster recovery plan for cyber attacks, so that when telltale signs come across your computer screens indicating ominous intent, you have a system that offers a response. Much complacency exists among the public and a number of recent events indicate we may want to reexamine our posture.

Businesses are both a cybercriminal’s target and a conduit to attack their clients. Having antivirus software and firewalls are good preventative measures against cyber attacks. But since cyber attacks can’t be completely prevented, backing up data is vital and cyber risk insurance is becoming a must-have for businesses of all sizes to help them recover from damage to data and systems caused by these different computer attacks.

What are you doing to protect your computer systems from cyber attacks? Leave a comment below and let us know!


© 2015 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is intended for information purposes only. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this article.

Jan Fossum, JD, PE

Jan is a principal engineer for HSB. He is a generalist covering technologies, from data centers to semiconductors. He holds two engineering degrees and a Juris Doctorate, each diploma from a different country. Before joining HSB, he served as a consultant to large corporations for over twenty-five years.


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