Magazine article Marketing

Hackers Threaten the Net's Financial Growth

Magazine article Marketing

Hackers Threaten the Net's Financial Growth

Article excerpt

Online brands cannot afford to ignore the dangers that hackers pose to consumers' trust in the financial possibilities of the web, says Ben Rosier

Imagine the impact of a group of individuals marching into your local Tesco and simply shutting it down. Now imagine the same thing happening to a bank, library or TV station -- but not just one. Imagine a co-ordinated, simultaneous attack on businesses and institutions round the UK, denying people access to a whole range of services.

The scenario is comparable to the position in which some of the biggest names in the online world found themselves last week. A series of attacks by hackers closed some of the biggest web sites, threatening consumer confidence in individual online brands and the internet as a medium.

After targeting mega online directory Yahoo!, the hackers moved on to attack the big e-commerce companies, including eBay, Buy.com and Amazon, raising concerns about the security of consumers' personal details.

While bricks-and-mortar retailers have had problems in the past with direct action groups, it has largely been confined to local branches. However, the global nature of the web has left online companies exposed to attack on a far wider scale.

undermining confidence

The current obsession with all things dot.com has meant that the latest attacks have received widespread press coverage. There is a perception that hacking of high-profile sites could undermine general confidence in the internet sector.

So far the attacks, even when successful, have only brought down sites for a few hours and the immediate implications for users have been largely contained. "People do tend to panic, but these things are usually sorted out quickly. The detrimental effect of the original hack is pretty short term," says Gary Lockton, chief executive of Deep Group, which has worked for brands such as Volkswagen, BT and Britvic-owned Tango.

But while one-off attacks are largely little more than an embarrassment for the sites and a minor irritation for users, online brands have to be seen to be addressing the issue.

Shelaine Green, marketing director for Yahoo! Europe, says that like most problems, the real test for many consumers is how the company responds. "In terms of safeguarding the brand, the important thing is how you deal with the problem. Judging from the feedback we've had, our users appreciate that we got the site back up again quickly, and that we're upgrading the system to make sure it's less likely to happen again," she says. …

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