In today’s technology-driven world, exploitation of digital systems is all too common. Whether carried out on individuals, companies or governments, cyberattacks are unique due to their covert nature and scope of people they affect. Here are five of the most prominent cyberattacks in recent history.
Adobe Systems (2013)
Adobe Systems is a software company best known for its design products. In October 2013, the company announced a network breach in which hackers stole the IDs and passwords for a number of its customers. The stolen information was later found for sale on the dark web. The attackers also stole source code, allowing them to examine the confidential workings of Adobe’s software.
Although Adobe initially told the public that only 2.9 million accounts were hacked, that number rose as details developed. In total, some 38 million active user accounts were compromised.
Adobe faced major criticism for the way it secured its data. Any identical customer passwords also appeared identical when encrypted — making it far easier for hackers to discern patterns and guess passwords correctly. The case highlighted the need for double encryption in data security.
During the 2013 holiday season, the retail chain Target was victim to a major hack in its credit card reader system. The hack remained undetected for weeks, allowing the culprits to steal vast amounts of credit card data.
Target originally stated that the hackers stole around 40 million credit and debit card numbers. Further investigation, however, revealed customer contact information to be stolen as well. By the end of the ordeal, the hack affected an estimated 110 million people.
The company’s foot traffic in stores slowed considerably as a result. Its immediate profits also fell by around 46 percent. Ultimately, Target settled a lawsuit brought by the affected shoppers to the tune of $10 million.
The hackers managed to install malicious software into Target’s point-of-sale (POS) devices, although how they did so remains a mystery. This allowed the hackers to capture the card information for the brief amount of time it was stored in the POS memory. The case demonstrated the importance of remaining informed about new methods of cyberattacks and protecting computer systems accordingly.
In May 2014, the online auction website eBay revealed that the private information for its entire customer base was compromised. Hackers exposed names, physical and email addresses, birthdays and encrypted passwords. The hackers had access to the entire system for a total of 229 days.
The breach was enormous, affecting a total of 145 million users. Although user activity on the site declined, the company’s profits were not affected.
eBay’s breach was said to have been caused by hackers obtaining the credentials of three corporate employees. This reflects the importance of training company employees in basic computer safety, such as not opening email from unfamiliar addresses.
The film, television and digital content company Sony Pictures was hacked in November 2014 by the “Guardians of Peace,” a group supposedly linked to North Korea. The attack was a response to the planned release of the film The Interview, a comedy about the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The hacker group stole more than 100 terabytes of data, including contracts, passport information, salary lists, films and film budgets, Social Security numbers and emails.
Due to the breach, many of the data centers where the information had been stored were completely emptied. The stolen material was also quickly uploaded online for public viewing. The hack famously led to the cancellation of The Interview’s theatrical release.
According to Security Magazine, Sony Pictures headquarters lacked a number of basic protections, both digitally and on its campus. Guests walked around without escorts, administrative computers remained logged in while unattended, and computer systems lacked essential securities, such as encrypted data. The incident demonstrated that even major companies could be behind the times and served as a warning to stay vigilant and attentive to ever-evolving computer security measures.
One of the largest health insurance companies in the United States, Anthem fell victim in February 2015 to what was called at the time the biggest data breach in the history of health care. Among the information stolen were names, Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses, emails, employment information and salary data of both customers and company employees.
The breach compromised up to 78.8 million records. While its total cost is still unknown, it is expected to go beyond $100 million.
Anthem’s data was hacked through spear-phishing administrative accounts. The breach demonstrated the importance of limiting data access — even for top administrators.
The Future of Cybersecurity
With the threat of cyberattacks ever present, employees look to the incoming workforce to fill a growing need. According to Cisco, more than 1 million cybersecurity jobs remain unfulfilled worldwide. For students who want to contribute to this high-opportunity field, the online information technology degree can train them in the skills they need to achieve their goals. The program is offered fully online and can be completed in as little as two years.