As the world increasingly puts sensitive information into digital formats, criminals continue to try innovative and cunning strategies to obtain it. Cybersecurity professionals work at the heart of the system, devising ways to plan for and block cyberattacks.

Their expertise is needed, as the attacks show no signs of slowing. Whether by individuals, governments or terrorist organizations, cybersecurity breaches have continued at a furious pace in recent years. Industry experts estimate that the U.S. government alone faces up to $13.7 billion in costs related to cyberattacks.

Students in an online Applied Computer Science degree program learn the skills to combat cyberattacks. As the following recent data breaches show, they will need them.

Some of the Most Famous Cyber Attacks

The following five cyberattacks set an unfortunate standard for using the internet to access private information or take control of important systems. These types of cases are the very thing cyber professionals study so they have a thorough understanding of hacker strategies.

Colonial Pipeline (2021)

In May 2021, operators of the Colonial Pipeline that runs from Houston to the southeastern United States suffered a ransomware attack that took over key components of the computer software used to control the pipeline. The attack represents the largest attack on the oil and gas infrastructure in U.S. history. The FBI Identified the European cybercriminal group DarkSide as being behind the attack. The attack led to panic buying of gasoline in the southeast, which in turn caused shortages in some areas.

Anthem (2015)

Anthem, a U.S. healthcare company, sustained what at the time was the biggest data breach in U.S. history. Hackers obtained patient names, Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses, emails, employment information and salary data. Anthem employees also had their data stolen. In total, the hackers accessed 78.8 million records. Hackers got into the system using the email scam known as spear-phishing, directed at administrative accounts.

Equifax (2017)

From May to July 2017, cyber attackers accessed a staggering 145.5 million data files held by Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency. This information included names, Social Security numbers, credit card information, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. Hackers got into the system by hijacking analytics from a third-party online e-commerce provider working with Equifax.

Adobe Systems (2013)

In October 2013, hackers stole IDs and passwords from 38 million customers that authorities later found for sale on the dark web. The attackers also stole source code, which allowed them to analyze Adobe’s software. Experts later revealed that hackers found it easy to find patterns in the security software for customer passwords, making the need for double encryption even more critical.

Target (2013)

This case remains famous because of the popularity of the Big Box retailer. In 2013, hackers managed to access data during the holiday season of about 40 million credit and debit card accounts that had made purchases at Target. The chain eventually paid $18.5 million in a multistate settlement of lawsuits brought against them.

These cybersecurity breaches are just of the most famous among the thousands that happen each year in the United States and around the world. Cybersecurity professionals will remain in high demand as long as criminals look for ways to take advantage of digitally stored records.

An online Applied Computer Science degree program can prepare graduates to help private businesses and government agencies better protect themselves against a cybersecurity breach.