As cyber attacks become more common and the stakes higher, one thing is becoming overwhelmingly clear: Businesses that have yet to invest in advanced cybersecurity strategies suffer from a lack of education surrounding the topic.
In other words, they’re unclear on why they should invest, which prevents them from moving forward. The results of this ignorance can be catastrophic. The best way to deal with a lack of cybersecurity adoption is to diplomatically walk through the consequences of not taking action.
This is not a scare tactic, but rather, a clear look at what happens if action isn’t taken.
The 5 Negative Impacts of Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks are costly on multiple fronts. According to researchers from Kent’s School of Computing and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford, these consequences can be divided into five specific categories.
It used to be that cyber attacks only had digital impacts. But as these crimes become increasingly advanced, the consequences are moving beyond cyberspace and into the physical world.
One recent example occurred in September 2020 when a hospital in Germany was victimized by a ransomware attack and forced a shutdown of the emergency care unit. At least one patient who was redirected to another hospital died shortly upon arrival.
This is a clear indication that cyber attacks can now impact all facets of life. Other physical impacts may include identity theft, mistreatment, abuse, and/or bodily injury.
There are obviously financial ramifications with cyber crime victimization. This may include any or all of the following: disrupted operations, reduced customers, reduced profits, fall in stock price, loss of capital, regulatory fines, investigation costs, lawsuits, PR response costs, extortion payments, or loss of jobs.
By one account, the average cost of a cyber attack now exceeds $1 million – a number that continues to rise on an annual basis.
“While threat actors only have to be successful once, organizations must be successful in their attack mitigation 100% of the time,” the study’s author says. “A cyberattack resulting in service disruption or a breach can have devastating business impacts.”
Though insurance policies can be purchased to help offset the cost, prevention is always going to remain the best method. The sooner you invest in a comprehensive cybersecurity solution, the easier it becomes to avoid economic hardship at the expense of an attack.
While it’s fairly easy to quantify the financial costs associated with cyber attacks, it’s often the psychological impact that’s felt most dramatically.
The psychological impact is what an organization’s stakeholders feel after an attack. These emotions include things like confusion, discomfort, frustration, worry/anxiety, feeling upset, depressed, embarrassed, shameful, guilty, loss of self-confidence, low satisfaction, and other negative changes in perception.
When organizational stakeholders feel emotions like these, it’s hard to enjoy a quick rebound. Even after the financial costs are dealt with, there’s a lingering sense of uncertainty and fear. This can drive employees away and/or cause them to underperform.
Cyber attacks don’t tend to fly beneath the radar anymore. Today, there’s a need to speak up and announce an attack after it’s occurred. (This is part of what it means to practice ethical and transparent business.) And unfortunately, this brings with it an additional set of consequences.
The reputational consequences of a cyber attack may include damaged public perception, reduced corporate goodwill, damaged relationships with clients and customers, damaged relationship with suppliers, reduced future business opportunities, inability to recruit top talent, media scrutiny, loss of key staff, loss or suspension of industry accreditation, and reduced credit scores.
Finally, there are social/societal consequences that stem from a cyber attack. These sort of go hand in hand with the reputational blowback, but deserve their own category. Social consequences include negative changes in public perception, disruption in daily life activities, negative impact on the country (services, economy, etc.), and drop in internal organization morale.
No two businesses are the same. But if you analyze the cybersecurity threats that exist in today’s digital landscape, almost any consequence can fit into one of the five aforementioned buckets. And whether you’re in maritime, accounting, or medicine, it’s abundantly clear that something must be done to protect your organization sooner rather than later.