Cybercrime is now the greatest threat to civilization in the world. People are actually more afraid of hackers than any other type of criminals. Some crimes have led to the collapse of companies or force them to spend millions in fines and security. To stay safe, companies and individuals are spending more money to secure their devices and online activity because the losses can be catastrophic. Despite the measures to keep online information and property safe, hackers still breach even the most secured systems wreaking havoc that shock the world and devastate economies. These hacks are sometimes so damaging that the victims find it hard to admit. Of the millions of cybercrimes happening every year, these ten had the most disastrous effects.
1. The 2016 DDoS Attacks
On October 21st, 2016, the world woke up to witness the worst Distributed Denial of Services attack in history. The hackers attacked Dyn, a company that provides Domain Name services (DNS) to most major sites online including PayPal, Netflix, CNN, and Fox News. The attack involved an abnormal overflow in traffic that forced the servers to collapse several times that day. Dyn reported that the attack pumped an overflow of over 1.2TBPS speeds which are the largest ever reported so far. Amazon whose services were operated on a different server by the same company was also affected for several hours. The sheer magnitude of this attack was shocking considering the fact that internet services were shut down across the US and Europe for hours. The total losses in monetary terms were enormous. The attack still opened up the world to prepare for such an attack. The perpetrators of the attack and their intentions were not made clear.
2. The JP Morgan Chase Hack
This case is still considered the most devastating data heist in US history. The hack was uncovered by a team of employees at the JP Morgan bank. The bank doesn’t know when the hack started, but they found out in June 2014. They were unable to stop the hack even after finding out for nearly two months until August when they finally ended it. By then, the hack had affected more than 83 million customers putting more people in danger of identity theft and phishing attacks than ever before.
JP Morgan was actually not the only targets, Citibank, The Wall Street Journal, E* Trade Financials among other major companies were also hacked on a smaller scale. The criminals had the financial information and personal details of more than 100 million Americans which they used to send targeted investment adverts. They bought stocks illegally, encouraged people to buy them to raise the prices before dropping the shares at a profit to make lots of money. The shares would then fall in price suddenly leading to huge losses for thousands of Americans. They also ran an illegal gambling scheme processing fake payments. Three Israelis and one Russian were arrested for the crime but the damages were totally irreparable.
3. The Marriot Data Breach
Marriot took over Starwood Hotels and resorts worldwide in 2016 getting control of the personal and credit card data of over 500 million people. Their global customer base meant that a hack on their servers exposed people from all over the world to identity theft and credit card losses. However, even while acquiring one of the largest hotel chains in the world, they never realized the servers had been breached until two years later. When the actual damage assessment came out in 2018, they realized that at least 383 million customers were exposed to the hackers. Hackers received personal information and worst of all credit card information which they could use to set up accounts and reservations or just steal from the card owners directly. This was the most devastating breach ever to hit a single hotel chain in history.
It was hard to explain how all those people could deal with the losses if the hackers decided to use that information. Security experts later accused China of planning the breach while attempting to get information on security clearance and health insurance. China denied it, and Marriott was forced to set up a compensation site for any losses that would come out of the breach. The company claimed that they had encrypted credit card information, but they were not sure if the hackers had acquired the information needed to decrypt it. The customers were advised to freeze their credit cards which would have far-reaching consequences because they were nearly the size of the total US population.
4. The New York Federal Reserve Heist
Of course, no one would walk into the New York Federal reserve with guns. However, hackers targeting the central bank of Bangladesh did it without even approaching the facility. They stole the login credentials from the Bangladesh central bank staff and used them to make payment requests of over $1 Billion to several corporations and individuals worldwide. This would be the largest heist in history were it not for US sanctions against Iran, yes Iran! The hackers requested payments for an Iranian oil tanker named Jupiter which was under US sanctions raising alarms at the mainstay of global finances.
The alarms were however raised after the bank had already made payments of over $101 million to the hackers making it the largest ever Cyberheist in history. The sheer extent of the heist was so devastating that it got Bangladesh, Germany, and the US pointing fingers at each other. It forced the president of the Bangladesh central bank to resign. The Federal reserve was exposed for lacking a real-time monitoring system for international payments. So shaming for the bank responsible for so many economies. It was later revealed that this was just one in nearly 60 hacks the FED had experienced in the recent past.
5. The Mafia Boy A
This is the most devastating cyber-attack ever carried out by a single person. By the Early 2000s, Mafiaboy was the most feared hacker in the world. He was a 17-year-old high school student who just hacked to become famous. Until 1999 when he was finally identified he had carried out more than 55 hacks prompting a series of DDoS that affected the whole internet. He was feared as the man who proved he could take down the internet because he shut down major websites including Amazon and Yahoo.
These hacks cost businesses up to $1.7 billion making them the most expensive cyber crimes in history. He was however sentenced to only eight months in open custody because he was a minor. The judge was lenient just accusing him of mischief-making it impossible to serve any other sentence despite the damage he caused. He later reformed and wrote a book about his experiences as a young hacker before starting work at HP. Maybe crime does pay after all!
6. The Yahoo Hacks
This is another cyber-attack that was so effective and massive affecting nearly every client on the yahoo server yet the company never found out for a long time. At its peak, Yahoo was the largest search engine in the world hosting over 3 billion customer accounts and surprisingly, all of them were hacked. Yahoo identified the first breach in 2014 and reported that 500 million accounts on its server were compromised. After further investigation, they found out that an even more massive breach happened in 2013 affecting at least 1 billion accounts.
When Verizon later took over Yahoo, they confirmed that all the 3 billion customers of Yahoo had been hacked exposing personal information and emails shared across the globe on Yahoo all those years. This put the private information of nearly half of the world population at risk. The company apologized and advised customers to use encrypted security questions for all accounts, but the world was just too angry at them. The FBI later apprehended two hackers alongside 2 Russian Spies naming them the perpetrators of the attack. It is not clear what they wanted, but the officials pointed the finger at the Russian government. This was so shocking that the US Senate decided to investigate the actual extent of the damage and how Yahoo let that happen.
7. The Soviet Gas Explosion
This was probably the worst consequence of the cold war. The Soviets were being accused at the time of stealing western technology, so the CIA made a plot to slip them flawed software secretly. The operation was allegedly approved by President Reagan himself as later confirmed by his Air Force secretary. The intent was to devastate the economy and discourage Eastern Europe from importing Russian gas. The Soviets took up the software designed to control piped gas pressure and valves which was meant to flop, and it did. When the software malfunctioned, it caused a buildup of pressure on a large scale resulting in the largest ever non-nuclear explosion. The explosion which was visible from space led to enormous losses for Russia and nearly shut down the industry. There were however no casualties.
8. The Equifax Data Breach
This is the attack that opened the Congress to imposing a penalty of credit review companies to pay clients if they get hacked. Equifax has been in the big three lists for the largest consumer credit reporting agencies in the world for years. Being responsible for the information of over 88 million businesses and nearly 1 billion people globally means a breach on their systems would be catastrophic and it was. In 2017, Equifax announced a breach affecting at least 147.7 million Americans.
The figure was adjusted to nearly 150 million days later making it the largest breach on American credit information. The attack made the whole country angry as nearly half of Americans had their data stolen. The sad bit was that some of these people had never even registered for a credit review. The CEO resigned and later got grilled in Congress, but the company did not pay for this devastating flaw. It was also unclear who the hackers were and what they intended to do with that information.
9. The Sony Pictures Hack
This hack caused a tense international incident that affected the US, Japan, and North Korea causing Sony considerable losses in 2014. Before the Sony hack, the US and North Korea were not friends, but this hack made the Obama administration so angry that he imposed the final sanctions imaginable on the regime. The hack was allegedly in retaliation to Sony’s anticipated release of the movie The Interview. The movie portrayed the North Korean regime in a bad way as an oppressive dictatorship.
Despite the anticipation, Sony was forced to abandon the release because the hackers threatened to release more information they had stolen from the servers. By the expected day of the release, so much private information on Sony and its employees including the star Angelina Jolie had been leaked, some very damaging. The theaters that had been hired to air the first screenings pulled out costing Sony millions of dollars. The DOJ later accused a North Korean hacker named Park Jin Hyok although he could not be arrested because he was enjoying the safety of the dictatorship. North Korea also distanced itself from the hack which is still considered the worst on any Hollywood studio.
10. The WannaCry Ransomware
This hack was blamed on the same North Korean hacker that pulled off the Sony studios hack. The attack occurred in 2017 as computer after computer got blocked just displaying the red screen with a padlock and an ultimatum for a ransom payment. The attack was on a global scale affecting more than 300,000 computers across the world. It became more damaging as some of these computers belonged to government agencies, banks, and even hospitals. The hackers locked out all the users from their computers and demanded $600 for each blocked computer before unlocking them. The most affected government agency was the UK, NHS where nearly one-third of computers in hospitals were blocked. The NHS spent almost $100 million as tens of thousands of appointments were canceled and over $70 million spent in clean up and upgrades. The actual cost on the global scale was never quantified, but this attack just proved how much the whole world is vulnerable to such an attack.