Can an uninterruptible power supply be hacked?

Stories of hacking are everywhere; the headlines seem to leap out at us on a daily basis. As many big businesses have been hacked, we assume, wrongly, that it is only ‘the big boys’ that are vulnerable.

But, small business are at risk too and it is essential that all components of your computing system are protected but, many people forget about their uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Many assume that this is a separate component, devoid of all risk from hackers and those in society with less than scrupulous intentions when it comes to our business and our home computing systems too.

picSo, in answer to can businesses and home UPS systems be hacked, the unfortunate answer I yes, they can.

But, the good news is that there are steps that can be taken to prevent hacking, but understanding where these hacking activities come from, can also help in protecting ourselves, identity and data.

Are UPS systems prime targets?

There was much discussion and eye brow raising over a supposed hacking of a UPS in the popular American serial “24”. One episode used the know-how of a highly expert computing professional to track terrorists operating out of an office base in London, through hacking in to their UPS.

Many people wondered if this was a possibility… and it seems in this day and age of interconnectivity, where every piece of our online activity seems to be connected together but everything, from the TV channels we watch to the websites we surf can be monitored and viewed. If this is the case, there is scientific evidence to back this; a researched ‘white paper’ by an American corporation has highlighted vulnerabilities and potential threats to UPS systems but, identifying these is one important first steps, with ideas to prevent this now being created.

The definitions

Virus, spyware and hackers are all terms that are used interchangeably but it is important to understand their definitions: viruses can delete files, hackers retrieve your personal or business information and spyware is where ‘advertisers’ can place adverts on your system, not only being a nuisance but they can also make your system unusable.

Hacking – why do people do it?

Very much like parking on a double yellow line, hacking is something that many of us see as a useless past time, failing to understand why people ‘do it’. It seems that the reasons for hacking are three-fold…

  • Hacking for fun – hacking or breaking in to a computer system, servers and networks is something that some people for kicks. It presents a challenge that if they do spot a weak point, exploit and gain access to a system gives them the ultimate gratification.
  • Hacking to thieve – like gaining access to a locked business or house, some hackers will attempt to gain unauthorised access to a computing system in order to steal information or money (or both!). To this end, banks and other larger companies, such as Sony in November 2014, are common targets for hacking, with people’s information being stolen.
  • Hacking to disrupt – there are also hacking groups whose main aim is to cause as much disruption as possible, causing chaos and basically, be a nuisance. Many of these groups are attempting to make a statement, for example through exposing breaches in security or disapproval about the business itself. These hacking groups tend to grab the headlines, rather than steal information as such; groups you may have heard of include Anonymous and Lulzsec.

Is hacking my business or personal system a real possibility… or a load of hype?

It seems highly likely when you consider a 15 year old in America managed to hack into NASA computing systems, almost shut down a space station and cruise around 3,300 emails “like an employee”.

In most cases, our small business computer system, let alone our home computers, are adequately protected. Add to this the fact that even the large corporations can be hacked and not know it for months, then you have all the ingredients for being vulnerable.

As part of these hacking campaigns, the results and extent are often not fully reported in the media and so how many have included the use of a UPS system is so far, unknown. However, any computing system that is connected to the Internet – as most things are want to be these days – is vulnerable and, as this system is about backing up valuable data, it makes sense to maintain tight security on this too.

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