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10 of the biggest computer hacks

Computer hacks can access our information anytime, from anywhere in the world.

Below is a list of 10 of the biggest computer hacks and their victims include everyone from government bodies, banks, the entertainment industry and regular, everyday users.

Now, while this remains a scary prospect, remember that if you take the right precautions you will steer clear of adding to the statistic that 50% of internet users have been a victim of cyber crime.

1. NHS Hack, 2017

In May 2017, a Ransomware attack crippled the NHS. Up to 40 hospitals and trusts became infected by the attack. It cancelled operations and appointments and diverted ambulances.

The WannaCry ransomware locked access to vital medical records. Hackers demanded a ransom of $300 into an untraceable bitcoin account per user affected.

It went down as the biggest ransomware attack in history, infecting 57,000 computers in the UK alone. It also targeted 99 other countries, with over 140,000 computers infected.

2. Bank of Bangladesh Hack, 2016

Unidentified robbers hacked a Bangladeshi central bank official’s computer in Februrary 2016. It went down as one of the biggest cyber heists in history with $81 million in stolen money ending up in the Philippines.

Bangladesh Ambassador John Gomes said the hackers were neither in the Philippines nor Bangladesh. Hackers sent fraudulent messages to the New York Federal Reserve, seeking to transfer almost $1billion from the Central Bank of Bangladesh.

Most of the transfers were blocked, but $81million was sent to a bank in the Philippines before being moved to casinos and casino agents. A Philippine inquiry meant that Bangladesh received $15million of the total sum back.

3. Sony Hack, 2014

In November 2014, a hacker group who identify themselves as “Guardians of Peace” (GOP) hacked into Sony’s computer infrastructure and leaked a release of confidential data.

Data included personal information about Sony Pictures' employees and their families, emails between employees, information about executive level salaries and copies of unreleased films. The attack came after Sony’s Playstation network was forced offline by an attack in August 2014, three months earlier.

A GOP member claimed to have performed the attack, stating they had access to Sony’s network for at least a year before the discovery in November 2014. US investigators say the culprits spent at least two months copying critical files.

All this because the group of hackers, who allegedly had ties to North Korea, wanted Sony to cancel the screening of 2014 release The Interview.

4. The Melissa Virus

The Melissa Virus was a mass-mailing macro virus released in 1999, connected to an email attachment. When opened, it would disable safeguards in Word 97 or Word 2000. If the user has the Microsoft Outlook email program, it would be resent to the first 50 people in each of the user’s address books.

Computer Programmer David L. Smith was sentenced to ten years in prison (of which he served 20 months). He paid a fine of $5,000 for his role in creating and distributing the virus which caused $80million worth of damages.

The FBI and New Jersey State Police carried out the investigation after the virus damaged PCs and computer networks in business and government.

5. Conficker

Conficker is a computer worm that targets the Microsoft Windows operating system. It infected millions of government, business and home computers in over 190 countries. The worm was notoriously difficult to get rid of due to its changed propagation and update strategy.

The origin of Conficker remains unknown to this day. Working group members at the 2009 Black Hat Briefings believe Ukraine to be the probable origin.

6. Stuxnet

Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm that was first identified in 2010. It targets industrial computer systems and was responsible for causing massive damage to Iran’s nuclear program.

Rumours swirled that the worm was a joint venture between America and Israel as a cyberweapon. The worm spreads using infected removable drives, such as a USB flash drive. It infects and updates other computers inside private networks that are not connected to the internet.

7. TalkTalk Hack, 2015 & 2016

TalkTalk wasn't hacked once, but twice. We couldn’t pick between the two so thought we’d include both. In 2015, TalkTalk experienced a data breach during which personal and banking details of up to four million customers were accessed, put into a spreadsheet and held for ransom.

The attack cost TalkTalk £42m. 101,000 subscribers left after the attack, which cost them £400,000 in fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office for its negligence in protecting personal information.

In 2016, TalkTalk routers were the target of a malware attack. The attack left hundreds of thousands of customers without internet access after stealing Wi-Fi passwords for the routers. TalkTalk’s stock dropped after the attack, which is affecting the company to this day.

8. Spamhaus Hack, 2013

In March 2013, anti-spam service Spamhaus was hit with what was the most powerful Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber-attack in history. The attackers used almost 100,000 servers which generated up to 300 Gigabits per second (Gbps), which according to some firms, slowed down entire sections of the internet due to the traffic.

A typical DDoS attack generates 4-10Gbps of traffic at any one time, which should give you an idea of the size of this cyberattack.

9. eBay Hack, 2014

In May, eBay announced that hackers accessed personal information of all 145 million users of the eCommerce corporation. It was the biggest attack launched on a corporation at the time.

How did they handle it? By telling all 145 million users of their internet retail service to change their password.

This attack had the potential to steal more information from other sites. There was a chance attackers could unscramble encrypted passwords using automated software. They could then log into thousands of popular services, including social media, online banking and email services.

10. American Business Hack, 2005-2012

This entry was a sustained attack over the course of eight years! A hacking group from Russia and Ukraine targeted banks and companies in America, stealing 160 million credit and debit card numbers and breaching 800,000 bank accounts. It’s the largest cybercrime case file and credit card breach in history and affected companies including Nasdaq, 7-11, JC Penney and JetBlue.

e-Careers offer a range of Cyber Security courses designed to help businesses and individuals protect any network they are a part of. Visit our course pages to find out more.