Nav: Home

Firms perceived to fake social responsibility become targets for hackers, study shows

May 05, 2020

Data breaches have become daily occurrences. Research firm Cybersecurity Ventures reveals that in 2018 hackers stole half a billion personal records -- a 126 percent jump from 2017 -- and more than 3.8 million records are stolen in breaches every day, including recently the World Health Organization.

What corporate leaders may not realize is that strides they are making toward social responsibility may be placing a proverbial target on their backs -- if their efforts appear to be disingenuous, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame.

A firm's social performance, as measured by its engagement in socially responsible or irresponsible activities, affects its likelihood of being subject to computer attacks that result in data breaches, according to "Too Good to Be True: Firm Social Performance and the Risk of Data Breach," forthcoming in Information Systems Research from Corey Angst, professor of IT, analytics and operations at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.

There is evidence that not all hackers are motivated by money and that at least some target what they dislike. Recent hacks against the WHO, due to its actions or alleged inactions related to the coronavirus pandemic, are a case in point, according to Angst.

"Recent hacking activity, including 25,000 email addresses and passwords allegedly from the National Institutes of Health, WHO, Gates Foundation and others being posted online, is supported by our findings," Angst said. "What is most surprising is that firms that are 'bad actors' regarding corporate social responsibility are generally no more likely to be breached than firms that are good. In fact, the opposite is true."

The study shows firms that are notably poor at corporate social responsibility, or CSR, are no more likely to experience a data breach, while a strong record of CSR in areas peripheral to core firm activities, including philanthropy and recycling programs, results in an elevated likelihood of breach.

"Delving into this latter finding, our results suggest firms that simultaneously have peripheral CSR strengths alongside major concerns in other areas are at increased risk of breach," Angst said. "This reality for firms with seemingly disingenuous CSR records suggests that 'greenwashing' efforts to mask poor social performance make firms attractive targets for security exploitation. Some perpetrators can 'sniff out' firms' attempts to give the appearance of social responsibility, and, consequently, these firms are more often victimized by malicious data breaches."

The team conducted its research by compiling a unique dataset consisting of publicly available information on data breaches at 189 firms spanning 2005 to 2010 and included external assessments of their CSR and other firm-specific factors.

"Corporate leaders need to understand that hackers are seeing through weak attempts at CSR," Angst advised. "They are taking matters into their own hands and acting as corporate disciplinarians by breaching the technology infrastructure of firms that they deem to be promoting themselves as good corporate citizens when in fact there are blemishes under the surface. When firms portray themselves as 'holier-than-thou,' any small misstep could trigger an attack."
-end-
Co-authors of the study include John D'Arcy from the University of Delaware, Idris Adjerid of Virginia Tech and Ante Glavas from the University of Vermont.

University of Notre Dame

Related Social Responsibility Articles:

'Social cells' related to social behavior identified in the brain
A research team led by Professor TAKUMI Toru of Kobe University's Graduate School of Medicine (also a Senior Visiting Scientist at RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research) have identified 'social cells' in the brain that are related to social behavior.
Hackers targeting companies that fake corporate responsibility
A new study found some hackers aren't in it for the money; they want to expose firms that engage in phony philanthropy.
Corporate social responsibility practices often lack 'on the ground' change -- SFU research
Companies that practice corporate social responsibility (CSR) could ensure more positive outcomes by tackling ''real change on the ground'' rather than focusing on single projects and budgets, according to Simon Fraser University political science professor Andy Hira.
Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.
Firms perceived to fake social responsibility become targets for hackers, study shows
What corporate leaders may not realize is that strides they are making toward social responsibility may be placing a proverbial target on their backs -- if their efforts appear to be disingenuous, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame.
Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.
Social isolation during adolescence drives long-term disruptions in social behavior
Mount Sinai Researchers find social isolation during key developmental windows drives long term changes to activity patterns of neurons involved in initiating social approach in an animal model.
Study: 'Value instantiation' key to luxury brands' and social responsibility
Although luxury brands and social responsibility seem fundamentally inconsistent with each other, the two entities can coexist in the mind of the consumer, provided the brand can find someone -- typically, a celebrity -- who successfully embodies the two conflicting value sets, says new research co-written by Carlos Torelli, a professor of business administration and James F.
Study: US presidents play surprising role in driving corporate social responsibility
A president's political party plays a big role in corporate social responsibility efforts, reveals new research from San Francisco State's Lam Family College of Business.
How to improve corporate social and environmental responsibility
New research led by the University of California, Riverside shows NGOs are more likely to sway companies into ethical behavior with carefully targeted reports that consider a range of factors affecting the companies and industries.
More Social Responsibility News and Social Responsibility Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.