Hacking in the Public Interest: 5 Ways to Protect Yourself Early

OK, you may not think that the capture and public posting of thousands of climate change emails and datasets constitutes "hacking in the public interest."  (More on that story in the New York Times.)  But the folks who did the hacking apparently believe they are serving the public interest.

You may give little credibility to a few sentences taken out of context, sifted from thousands of emails.  But the public sees the sentence and thinks, "That liar!"

What about you?  Are the animal rights advocates hostile to your business?  Is a union trying to organize your company?  Does your firm offer domestic partner benefits?  If you are involved in a controversy–even if you are trying hard not to be controversial–consider the possibility that people with strong positions on the issue may try to hack your computers.  What can you do?

1.  Review your computer security procedures

2.  Remind your staff members that they are to obey all laws and company policies.

3.  Remind your staff members that email is a written, permanent record.

4.  Don't trust routine document destruction protocols.  There are too many backups that can be subpoenaed to protect you from incriminating documents.

5.  Plan for a public relations disaster.  If your staff members are busy getting their jobs done, they will write something that will look bad when taken out of context.  It's unavoidable.  (Full disclosure: my hard drive is full of politically incorrect jokes, cartoons, and caricatures of stupid politicians.)  Have your PR people outline their plan for the publication of embarrassing information.  You may not know what embarrassing information will surface, but something will.