Cybersecurity

Sometimes Hackers Just Want to Embarrass You

Sometimes Hackers Just Want to Embarrass You
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Cyber attacks can have a detrimental impacts on customer relations, revenue, intellectual property and the overall health and welfare of an organization. But one significant impact, which can cost a company considerable time and money to repair, is in the area of public relations.

This was the case recently when Amy Pascal, Sony’s co-chairman and chief of its film division, came under intense criticism for her remarks about President Barack Obama and less than flattering statements about high-profile actors, including Angelina Jolie, Kevin Hart and Adam Sandler.

The comments were leaked by hackers who infiltrated the company’s emails and then leaked her exchange with movie producer Scott Rudin. Despite her quick apology, some in the industry initially speculated whether Pascal would be forced to resign.

Related: 3 Lessons From Sony Pictures Cautionary Tale 

Other damages certainly occurred from the attack. The group claiming to have carried out the cybertheft also took terabytes of Sony’s financial information, budgets, payroll data, internal emails and films. Yet the longest lasting impact of the incident may very well be the buzz now permeating through social media and other gossip media pages about the salacious views expressed by the company’s top brass.

And that will be the aspect that the public will remember most for some time to come. Although there are many victims of cyber attacks, Sony’s name may become synonymous with corporate losses and embarrassment from careless emails and protection of data as was the case for Target.

The reality is that these embarrassing moments can have as big of an impact on an organization’s bottom line as the attacks aimed at uncovering trade secrets or bank accounts. The time and money spent to respond to awkward statements could be extremely costly and the upheaval that can result from shifts in a management team can slow down or even derail mission-critical initiatives.

Related: Better Safe Than Sorry: How Startups are Staying Protected in Cyberspace

Any good incident-response policy should include a public-relations plan that specifically addresses the potential fallout from stolen emails, letters or other information that could have a negative result if publicly released. Corporate managers need to have an understanding and anticipation of the information in their computing networks that could result in a public-relations debacle. 

Let this serves as a visible warning to corporate managers: You may certainly have regrettable slips of the tongue or articulated or comments out of frustration -- ones that, at your core, you abhor and wish you could take back. And when written in text, the fallout can become magnified when shared in a public forum -- on the digital realm.

Every email, text, social media post or communique leaves a trail that can be accessed and exploited by someone with the right training and sophistication. Treat correspondence through such venues as ultimately open to anyone.

So be mindful of what you share on digital platforms. Count to 10, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you want what you have typed, texted or posted to appear in a broad forum. If the answer is no, then don’t share it electronically.

I recommend that if you need a place to vent the stresses of the day, work out regularly. Trust me: Your the time will be spent far more benefically.

Related: Hackers' Next Major Target: Your Smartphone