Any business which has a website will hopefully be seeing many positives as a result including better brand awareness, an increase in prospects and improved rankings on Google. All great stuff, but at moment’s notice they can all come to a shuddering halt if the website in question gets hacked. The consequences can go from an hour or two of inconvenience to a full-blown ransom demand to unlock the website and crucially all the data stored on its servers.
Hopefully, you never have to go through any experiences of your website being hacked, but it does no harm to be aware of the risks, and more importantly, being in a position to know how to prevent your website from being hacked in the first place. Hacking takes many forms so it can be a bit confusing trying to work out how to prevent them all. It will help if you first have an understanding of why hacking occurs so that you can assess if any of the reasons apply to your business.
Why Are Websites Hacked?
We should start by saying that not all hacking takes place for nefarious reasons. Some hacking is done ethically by software or online security organisations checking the vulnerabilities of websites and advising those who own them about the risks that exist to their website, and by default, their business.
That being said, unfortunately, most hacking is done with ill intent and criminality. Before we look at the main reasons people hack a website, which is for financial gain, we should also look at another group of hackers. These are hackers that have not set out to earn money from their activities but have other negative reasons for them taking place.
It could be an individual who has a grievance against a company or organisation and decides to disrupt them by hacking their website and causing them any manner of problems and difficulties. Another type of hacking is done by groups wishing to protest against a business or organisation and instead of marching with banners, they find a means to protest via hacking the website of the entity they are protesting against.
Whilst you might consider this to be hacking-lite as no financial gain is sought, that does not mean that the company or organisation whose website is being attacked hacked is not suffering significant financial loss as a result. As such, proper server security and protection which would prevent hacking is essential.
Hacking For Financial Gain
There are numerous ways in which hacking a website and its server can produce a financial gain. Many people believe that the only way this is achieved is by the hackers holding a website ‘hostage’ and demanding a ransom from the company which owns it. These denial of service attacks are highly sophisticated and when large corporations are the target the ransom demanded can be significant. Nevertheless, this is just one of many ways hackers earn from their actions.
Another serious hacking scenario is where the data which is held on a company’s servers are compromised and worst of all, stolen. Again, this can lead to a ransom demand for the release of that data, and so it remains on the servers. A worse situation is where the hackers steal the data and either sell it to criminals who know how to use personal data for financial gain, or they use it themselves for the same purpose.
Other ways hacking can bring financial gain include:
- Stealing content or files and selling them
- Redirecting traffic to the target website and sending it to another website selling goods or services owned by the hackers or an accomplice
- Creating backlinks to another website by embedding hidden links in the target website which that business’s owner is unaware of
- Changing the appearance of a website to promote something else. The ‘something else is usually illegal, or at best, dubious
So, there are plenty of ‘whys’ and no lack of incentive for hackers to attack websites. What businesses that have websites need to be is equally determined to prevent them by using security and anti-hacking software and tools.