A cyberattack is a digital invasion, usually caused by hackers, made through the Internet or a computer network. This may be done to access confidential information or to destroy the network itself with the use of malware. Cyberattacks may not always be easily detected, especially if the goal is simply to access information.
Cyberattacks can cause huge financial losses for companies, depending on the extent of damage. Fast-acting worms can damage a big percentage of a company’s system, resulting in the loss of information and temporary stoppage of operations. These attacks can also cause other forms of damage that may be more difficult to address. For example, a cyberattack that causes incorrect information to be spread through different networks can cause panic and the loss of the public’s confidence in both companies and institutions.
The reasons behind the launch of a cyberattack vary. Certain attacks are meant for gathering information. An example of this would be the highly-publicized Chinese attack against Google.
In its statement, Google identified the targets as Chinese activists, and while not much information was compromised (email content, for example, was not accessed), the attack has caused much alarm in the online community.
Other cyberattacks aim to make political statements, often through defacing websites. On the other hand, some attacks are launched with no ideological or financial aim at all. These are carried out by vandals whose only motivation may be to find out if they can penetrate the system.
More serious cyberattacks directed at causing greater damage have given way to a new term: cyberterrorism. Such attacks may be launched simply to create hysteria, and would, more often than not, be ideologically or politically motivated.