Cyberattacks: A Brief View on Why it Happens

Cyberattacks: A Brief View on Why it Happens

Cyber-attacks keep hitting the headlines and a lot of effort goes into preventing and dealing with the consequences when they happen. Understanding the motivation behind attacks can help organizations understand more about the risks they face so that they can tackle them.

Third-party fraud is fueled by identity theft, and breached data gives criminals the information they need to take over someone’s identity. Criminal gangs are well-organized and operate on a commercial basis: There is a supply chain, those that steal data are unlikely to be the same criminals who commit the identity theft and fraud. The dark web provides a marketplace for stolen credentials – people that have stolen personal data sell it to those who wish to commit fraud.

However, a modern take on blackmail is emerging. This can really affect organizations of all sizes as well as individuals. There are many variations: For example, hackers’ takeover a victim’s computer and freeze it, they then offer to reinstate access after a ransom has been paid.

Criminals use techniques such as phishing and vishing to tease out enough information to enable them to mount an attack. They then access email systems and send emails that look legitimate. A variation of this attack is invoice fraud, when an email is received that looks like it is from a legitimate supplier and is advising of a change of bank account details. Unfortunately, the bank account details supplied are those of a fraudster. This kind of fraud often combines elements of cyber-attack with offline elements such as social engineering.

We could carry on and on with many variations and examples however we will try to examine the reasons that leads to cyberattacks, and why they happen.

Every business, regardless of its size, is a potential target of cyber-attack. That is because every business has key assets criminals may seek to exploit. Sometimes that is money or financial information. Other times it may be personal information of staff and customers, or even the business’ infrastructure.

By recognizing the common motives behind cyber-attacks, you can build a better understanding of the risks you may face and find out how best to confront them.

The bottom-line question we want to know is: Why do cyber-attacks happen?

Most often, cyber-attacks happen because criminals want our:

  • Business’ financial details
  • Customers’ financial details (eg credit card data)
  • Sensitive personal data
  • Customers’ or staff email addresses and login credentials
  • Customer databases
  • Clients list
  • IT infrastructure
  • IT services (e.g. the ability to accept online payments)
  • Intellectual property (e.g. trade secrets or product designs)
  • Cyber-attacks against businesses are often deliberate and motivated by financial gain. However, other motivations may include:
  • Making a social or political point – e.g. through hacktivism
  • Espionage – e.g. spying on competitors for unfair advantage
  • Intellectual challenge – e.g. ‘white hat’ hacking

The key point is that cyber security threats don’t always come from anonymous hackers or online criminal groups. Vulnerabilities can arise within your own business too.

I will cover some more key points regarding this topic in the next part of this blog, stay tuned.

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