• Downstream liability: This sounds like a confused Bassmasters fishing show title, but it is perhaps the next big step in the legal evolution of the Internet. Downstream liability involves allegations that an attacker has taken control of a target computer (yours) and used it to attack a third party. Assume that it is your company’s computer that has been compromised by a hacker. Your company’s failure to protect its own systems has resulted in the damaging of a third party; the attacker used your computer as a weapon against the third party. Your company is therefore negligent due to lack of due diligence because it failed to protect against reasonable risks—specifically, no firewall was in place, or it was improperly configured, which is just as bad.
    The prudent person’s responsibility for security here is to use reasonable care. You can find a more detailed definition in Prosser, Wade, and Schwartz’s Cases and Materials on Torts: “...requiring the actor to conform to a certain standard of conduct, for the protection of others against unreasonable risks.” Who says Hollywood liberalism doesn’t contribute to society?
  • Lost data: You have probably heard the stories of companies that lost all their business data in hurricanes such as Katrina or the September 11 attacks, and many companies did not recover. What if your company experienced the same loss of data because you did not have a firewall and an attacker deleted your data because he could? What would happen to your business? Would it cost money to re-create everything? Would you suffer lost sales? Would you still be employed the next day?
  • Compromise confidential data: Every organization has data it considers confidential and, if lost, might cause financial problems, legal difficulties, or extreme embarrassment. These things might be caused by the loss of customer information such as credit card numbers, secret plans for the new weight loss formula, or secret product plans that end up in the hands of a competitor. The list goes on, and when you have been hacked, you must assume the worst. Perhaps this is why most cybercrimes go unreported—it is embarrassing, and admitting to being hacked is a sign of weakness that could affect the reputation and brand of a company.
  • Network downtime: Have you ever gone to an ATM machine or a grocery store to get cash and paid with your cash card in the swipe card readers? The networks enabling these devices to operate usually work fine; however, if they were not protected, an attacker might cause them to go down. The loss of revenue from these networks can quickly grow if they are unavailable. Downtime is the bane of any network, and a cost is always associated with these types of events.

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