A decade of hacking: Most important events

RapidVPN/ July 1, 2020/ Blog/

As a decade has ended, it is time for us to retake the view upon the most serious and devastating cyberattacks that have occurred. Since 2010, billions of different sensitive files, account details and personal information have been leaked due to terrible hacks and various damaging breaches.

One thing is for sure: the size and impact of the attacks have steadily increased throughout the decade. There is no sector left undamaged and the attacks show no signs of slowing down because there’s a lot of people that are forced to entrust the safety of their personal information to various websites.

The attacks grew so much in force, that what was considered in 2011. A devastating hack with over a million credentials, today would be considered minor. Nowadays, if a hack that happens is not nationwide and does not render entire systems unusable, it can be considered unsuccessful.

2013: Attack on Yahoo

One of the largest and the hack that deserves the first mention because of its size of the breach and the damaging effect that it had on the company’s ability to compete as an email service is Yahoo. In 2013, the amount of all three billion of Yahoo’s accounts was compromised, what has it made the largest breach in the history of the Internet. It took the company more than three years to notify the public that everyone’s personal information – including phone numbers, security answers, email addresses, etc, – has been sold on the Dark Web.

It had a devastating effect on Verizon’s $4.8 billion acquisition. The attack has been confirmed to be perpetrated by a group that was appointed by the Russian government. The final straw was in 2017 when the company admitted that all of its accounts have been breached.

2014: The Sony Pictures incident

The situation in 2014 revolves around the plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who was incensed by the film by Seth Rogen, called The Interview, and his government was threatened to attack US theatres if the film was released.

Sony has tried a number of things in order to suppress the controversy, including pushing back the release date but eventually, the film was released only digitally.

It did not calm North Korean anger and the group of North Korean military apparatus attacked Sony Pictures’ servers, wreaking havoc. Gossip sites spent months digging through the nearly 200,000 emails of Sony executives and highlighting the negative comments about starts like Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Hart, Angelina Jolie.

2015: Ashley Madison data breach

In 2015, more than 25 gigabytes of company data, including user details, were leaked in the attack. Because of the site’s policy of not deleting users’ personal information – including real names, home addresses, search history, and credit card transaction records – many users feared being publicly shamed. There were various reports of hackers extorting people according to the information found on the site, demanding ransom from them in exchange for hiding evidence of affairs. The aftermath has been life-altering because the police in Toronto, for example, attributed two suicides to information that came from the leak.

2015: Chinese breach data of OPM workers

In 2015, one more devastating attack occurred. The hack was conducted by the Chinese government in the United States Office of Personnel Management. It is believed to be one of the largest attacks to ever hit the US government. The general analysis found out that 21 million records were accessed. The hackers had information about candidates’ family members, college roommates, and psychological information. Included were the stolen information about millions of Social Security numbers, dates, places of birth and addresses. It was later revealed that Chinese government hackers had access to OPM systems for more than a year before they were exposed to the public.

2017: Equifax hack

As one of America’s largest credit bureaus, the company had access to the most sensitive data on millions of people. In 2017, hackers have gained access to information of about 143 million customers, including their birth dates, driver’s license numbers, addresses. More than 200,000 credit card numbers were released. Later on, it was revealed that the hackers were able to breach the company’s data and access to passport information of the users.

2018: Marriott Hotels data leak

In 2018, hackers breached the reservation systems of Starwood Hotels, which was bought by Marriott in 2016. The cybercriminals behind the attack had four years to move within the Starwood system and to gain access to personal information about millions of people who stayed at the hotels between 2014 and 2018. After the investigation, it was concluded that the number of people that were affected was about 383 million.

2019: Capital One mayhem

Last year, Capital One bank acknowledged that from 2005 and 2019, hackers have gained access to personal information of 100 million Americans and six million Canadians.

All the personal information has been gathered through a trove of credit card applications. Not only the personal information was leaked – all the credit scores, balances, payment history, and Social Insurance numbers were discredited. However, this attack is slightly different because the one behind it was caught and charged in court – Paige Thompson – a former Amazon Web Services employee.

2019: First American – Financial identity theft

One more attack of great importance from the last year draws attention. A billion-dollar real estate title insurance company had one of the biggest leaks: more than 885 million files dating back more than 15 years were leaked. The breach was exposed by the security reporter Brian Krebs, who wrote a blog post explaining the whole situation that happened. The company took down the entire website immediately.

In the spotlight:

Those were some of the most important data breaches that have happened during the period of the last decade. However, even if we failed to mention a huge number of other extremely dangerous attacks whose effects were lasting and dreadful, what is sure is nobody could even imagine what awaits in the future. There are cyber battles to be fought and some of them will be, for sure, lost.