Do you remember the climate change email hacks of 2009? Dubbed “Climategate,” this hack involved leaking over 1,000 emails and other documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Change Unit. Although at the time the hack was used to support the idea that climate change was a myth, the contents of the emails themselves actually helped to push the climate change cause forward.
Post-Climategate, scientists now understand that even the contents of their emails may some day be hacked and displayed for public scrutiny, both by peers in their field and by uninformed observers. What about business owners? If your emails were suddenly released for all to see, what would that say about your business?
The truth is that hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated, and everything from Climategate to Wikileaks has shown us that no information is truly safe. Every month, a different major corporation has to send out apology letters to its customers and clients announcing that its security has been breached and that hackers have gained access to customer names, passwords, and other sensitive information.
All of this cleanup work and reputation management means businesses have less time to spend on their primary mission, and both drives away customers and takes away resources from the businesses’ chief cause.
To Protect Your Cause, Protect Your Business
Climategate directly threatened the functioning of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Change Unit. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the Healthcare.gov webpage has been hacked 16 separate times — each time lowering citizens’ trust in the service.
No matter what your business’s mission or cause, a hacker will seek to set it back by discrediting your work. This becomes even more important if your business is in service of the environment, of promoting climate change research, or of offering alternative products for consumers who want to protect the planet.
In short: if you want to protect your cause, you have to protect your business first. Otherwise, a single group of hackers can undo all your good work.
Small Businesses Get Hacked, Too
Don’t assume that just because you’re a small business, you won’t become a target. As Marketplace.org notes, small businesses are as equally likely to be hacked as larger businesses, and since they have fewer assets and resources, the hack is likely to be even more devastating.
Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to hackers because they often lack the dedicated IT staff to monitor network traffic and identify evidence of hacking. Most hackers actually want to burrow deep into a business’s infrastructure and remain there unseen. The goal of most hackers isn’t actually to cause a visible hack like the Climategate
emails. These types of hacks are termed “advanced persistent threats” and are one of the biggest hacking threats facing businesses today. This means that businesses, even small ones need advanced network protection. Trend Micro is a good option for software specifically built to protect against these threats. Their Deep Discovery software offers network traffic inspection and real-time analysis to small businesses beyond what your standard protection can offer.
Foil Hackers by Developing a Plan
There are many steps you can take to prevent hackers from gaining access to your business, and every business needs an IT team or third-party software to protect against hackers. You also need to develop a contingency plan in the case that you do become hacked. Draw up a few short plans of action for each major type of hacking: an email hack such as Climategate, a username/password breach like the one Adobe recently experienced, or an advanced persistent threat. Determine how you will contact stakeholders, how you will address the problem, and how you will retain your good reputation.
Remember that, as with Climategate, your goal needs to be to keep as many people on your side as possible, even if there is someone out there trying to discredit your work. Hackers will always try to get in — it’s your job to protect your business and promote your cause, no matter what happens.