GUEST ESSAY: 6 unexpected ways that a cyber attack can negatively impact your business

By Mike James

Cyber crime can be extremely financially damaging to businesses. However, if you believe that money is the only thing that a cyber-attack costs your organization, you would be wrong. In fact, a recent academic analysis identified 57 specific individual negative factors that result from a cyber-attack against a business. Here are six ways, worth considering, that a attack can affect your organization.

SEO rankings


There are a number of issues that will occur in the aftermath of a cyber-attack that can have enormously negative consequences for your search engine optimisation (SEO). Hacked sites, for example, will by flagged in the rankings with a warning sign which can put off visitors. It is also worth noting that when a site is hacked it can start receiving bad reviews on Google’s review section – these can both begin to see you dropping in the rankings and losing traffic.

A large number of sites also have their content altered when they suffer a breach, and given the importance of content to the way that your site ranks, this can clearly play a huge role.

Legal and compliance issues

It is not just cyber-criminals that you have to worry about when you are calculating the costs of a cyber-attack. In the modern world of data protection and industry regulators, there are now powers to heavily fine businesses that fail to take adequate steps to protect their customers.

Related: Poll shows SMBs struggle dealing with cyber risks

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for example, regulators now have the power to fine businesses up to €20 million or 4 per cent of annual global turnover (whichever is greater), if they suffer a data breach and have failed to be in compliance with the regulation. This shows you just have expensive the concept is.

Loss of customer trust

When a website is hacked its customers and users start to view it differently. A company that suffers this kind of breach can get the perception that it is not doing enough to protect its data – and this can be a huge red flag for customers. And the underlying issue here is that when you lose the trust of your customer base, it can be extremely hard to win it back.

Almost 25 per cent of customers say that nothing can restore their trust in a business that has lost their data after a cyber-attack. And nearly a third suggested that they would immediately switch to a competitor business if a service that they were using suffered an attack. This shows why it is absolutely essential to do the groundwork to protect yourself, as in some cases, no amount of restorative work will regain customers.

Damage to reputation

But it’s not just existing customers that to you have to worry about alienating when you suffer a data breach. Remember, a business lives and dies by its reputation – and if yours becomes known as the business that lost its customers data or was tricked by hackers, it can change public perception of how you operate.

When customers make a decision between choosing your business or one of your competitors, they could have a lingering negative impression of how you operate which ultimately makes them choose another company.

Disruption to work

Whenever you suffer a cyber-attack you will need to spend time dealing with the problem, and ensuring that nothing has been left behind such as malware or altered content. To do so, it is always necessary to have a period of downtime. It can also take your IT staff away from business-critical work which can be a major problem.

This disruption can affect your business and actually result in you losing revenue because your website is not available. This can be extremely costly.

Cash flow issues

Don’t forget that one of the most common reasons that a hacker carries out an attack on your organisation is to steal money. There have been multiple cases of businesses that have lost so much money to a hack that they simply have not been able to remain solvent – cyber-attacks are not only expensive to fix, but they could be too much for your company to recover from.

It should also be made clear just how financially damaging that a cyber-attack can be for your business. For example, you might be surprised to learn that cyber-attacks cost businesses an average of $1.1m to deal with. Consider whether your business could continue to operate having suffered such a cost.

About the writer: LW contributor Mike James is a Brighton, UK.-based cybersecurity professional; his 15 years IT experience, includes penetration testing and ethical hacking projects.

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