The impact of computer hacking can be significant, with consequences ranging from financial loss to reputational damage to national security threats. Caesars Entertainment and MGM paid millions to hackers recently due to a ransomware attack that ground their operations to a halt. In recent years, several high-profile hacking incidents have made headlines, including the Equifax data breach, which exposed the personal information of over 147 million people (Lopez, 2017), and the WannaCry ransomware attack, which affected more than 200,000 systems in 150 countries (Bhandari et al., 2018).
Hackers often use ransomware attacks as a way to extort money from individuals or organizations. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s files, making them inaccessible until a ransom is paid to unlock them.
Hackers typically spread ransomware through phishing emails or by exploiting security vulnerabilities in software or systems. Once the ransomware is installed on a victim’s computer, the hacker demands payment in exchange for the decryption key that will restore access to the encrypted files.
There are a few reasons why hackers might choose to use ransomware attacks:
- To make a profit: Ransomware attacks can be an effective way for hackers to make money, as victims may be willing to pay a ransom in order to regain access to their important files.
- To disrupt operations: Ransomware attacks can cause significant disruption to an organization’s operations, making them an attractive option for hackers looking to cause chaos or damage.
- To cover their tracks: Some hackers may use ransomware as a way to distract from other activities they are engaging in, such as stealing sensitive data. By encrypting files and demanding a ransom, the hacker can divert attention away from the real target of their attack.
Regardless of the motive, ransomware attacks can have serious consequences for individuals and organizations, and it is important to take steps to protect against them. This includes implementing strong cybersecurity measures, educating users about the risks of phishing and other tactics used by hackers, and having a plan in place for responding to a ransomware attack.
In addition to the direct harm caused by hacking, there are also indirect effects to consider. For example, a study published in the Journal of Business Ethics found that companies that suffer a data breach often experience a decline in stock price and customer trust (Kim et al., 2019). Similarly, a report from the Congressional Research Service noted that state-sponsored hacking can have serious diplomatic and economic consequences, potentially leading to tensions and even military conflict (Hale, 2021).
To address the growing threat of computer hacking, governments around the world have implemented various laws and regulations aimed at protecting cybersecurity. For example, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) imposes strict penalties on companies that fail to adequately protect personal data, while the U.S. Cybersecurity Act establishes a framework for protecting critical infrastructure from cyber threats (European Parliament, 2016; U.S. Congress, 2015). However, these measures alone are not enough to fully address the problem, and it is important for individuals, organizations, and governments to work together to improve cybersecurity.
It is difficult to identify a moral reason why a hacker would issue ransomware, as the act of using ransomware to extort money or cause harm to others is generally considered unethical. Hackers who engage in this type of activity are typically motivated by financial gain or a desire to cause disruption or damage, rather than any moral considerations.
However, it is worth noting that some individuals who engage in hacking activities may believe that they are acting with a sense of moral purpose or justification. For example, they may see themselves as “white hat” hackers who are exposing vulnerabilities or highlighting the need for improved cybersecurity measures. While these individuals may not engage in activities such as ransomware attacks, their actions may still be considered unethical or illegal by others.
Lopez, J. (2017). “Equifax data breach exposes 143 million Americans’ personal information.” Forbes, September 7.
Bhandari, M., et al. (2018). “WannaCry ransomware attack: A wake-up call for cybersecurity.” Journal of Cybersecurity, 4(3), 143-149.
Kim, D., et al. (2019). “The impact of data breaches on stock price and customer trust.” Journal of Business Ethics, 156(1), 117-125.
European Parliament. (2016). “General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).” Official Journal of the European Union, L 119/1.
Hale, T. (2021). “State-sponsored cyberattacks: Challenges and responses.” Congressional Research Service, R45401.