The Top 6 Cyber Security Breaches of All Time (What Went Wrong)

It’s easier than ever to launch a cyber attack, and cyber security breaches are happening every day. Many executives are starting to wake up to the severe threat posed by cybercriminals. Cyber Attack statistics in the last decade suggest that cybercrime is increasing. Therefore executives are now prepared to invest some serious cash into keeping their companies secure.

This means there’s never been a better time to get involved in cybersecurity venture capital. So what are some of the most significant hacking incidents of the last ten years that have led to this cultural shift in business? This article lists 6 of the most prolific hacks you need to know about.

1. 2013 Yahoo Hack

In 2017 it came to light that Yahoo suffered a devastating data breach in 2013. Yahoo estimates that the attack on its network exposed as many as 1 billion user accounts.

Cybercriminals targeting Yahoo stole information such as names, dates of birth, phone numbers, and passwords. The attackers also gained access to users’ security questions.

Not only did this mean that people’s Yahoo accounts were compromised, but it also meant that the hackers could use this information to break into other accounts as well. For example, they could try using the same email and password combinations on other services.

Since people tend to make the critical mistake of using the same email and password on everything, this can be a highly effective tactic for cybercrime.

According to Verizon (who now owns Yahoo), every Yahoo user’s information was potentially compromised.

Investigations suggested the hackers sold the information to buyers in Eastern Europe. Some buyers were spammer groups who used the information to send nuisance emails. There were also actors who used the data for espionage.

For example, the stolen data was allegedly used to spy on government officials in Russia.

One possible cause of this hack is the fact that Yahoo didn’t have proper systems in place to track all network activity. This meant that it was difficult to trace the hacker’s activities in their network.

2. Uber Pays Hackers to Delete Stolen Data

In another one of the most shocking hacking reports, in 2017, Uber paid Cybercriminals a $100,000 ransom to delete stolen data. Hackers managed to break into Uber’s servers and steal personal information about their customers. For example, they had access to email addresses, phone numbers, and full names.

People criticized Uber for the move as this kind of behavior only encourages cybercriminals further. In the past, these kinds of breaches were done by computer hacking enthusiasts. Often it was more about the challenge of whether or not you could successfully break into a system.

In recent years, however, hacking has become much more profitable. Incidents such as this one show that multinational corporations are likely to pay large ransoms to hackers. The more companies like Uber pay ransoms, the more profitable cybercrime becomes. This leads to a significant proliferation in cybercriminal activity.

There is evidence that Uber knew the public would be against their decision to pay the hackers. Uber tried to hide the fact that they paid the ransom by presenting it as a “bug bounty.” This is when companies offer cash payments to individuals who ethically find bugs in their systems.

This incident put Uber in legal hot water as they may have violated various laws by interacting with the hackers instead of reporting them to the authorities.

3. 2016 FriendFinder Network Breach

In 2016 the FriendFinder network suffered from a significant cyber security breach. The Friendfinder network includes adult sites such as Adult Friend Finder; therefore, many users would find this data particularly sensitive.

The breach exposed around 412,214,295 accounts. The majority of these accounts were based on the Adult Friend Finder Platform.

Experts believe that the hack happened through the exploitation of file inclusion vulnerabilities. This is when an attacker can use files located elsewhere on a server as the output of an application. Often this allows an attacker to see restricted information in plain text format.

This happens in applications where the program doesn’t correctly validate input from users.

In a further blow to the company, it seems many of the leaked email addresses had been marked for deletion. Despite this, FriendFinder didn’t remove the data from the network. This suggests that Friendfinder could also have been in violation of data laws.

4. 2018 Marriot Hotels Breach

In 2018, it came to light that hackers breached the Marriot Hotel’s reservation system. This gave them access to extremely sensitive information such as the passport numbers of guests.

While Marriot discovered suspicious activity that led to the breach being identified in 2014, hackers may have been in their systems for several years before that.

Cybercrime statistics suggest at least 500 million guest records were compromised in this attack. So what exactly caused this considerable data breach?

Investigators found a remote access trojan on the Marriot computer systems. They also found Mimikatz, which is a tool for finding username and password combinations in system memory.

Investigators believe that these two infections were what led to the hack. A hacker was able to gain access to administrator privileges by exploiting these infections.

But how was the system infected in the first place? It’s possible that a Marriott employee fell for a phishing email scam.

5. 2020 Twitter Scam

In one of the most shocking acts of Cybercrime of all time, hackers gained access to the Twitter accounts of some of the world’s most famous people. For example, figures such as Elon Musk, Barack Obama, and Bill Gates had their accounts breached.

The attackers then used these accounts to send out fraudulent messages. These famous figures made grandiose claims about how if users sent Bitcoin to a certain Bitcoin address, the celebrity would send back double the amount.

Of course, when users sent the Bitcoins, the attackers simply kept them for themselves. Blockchain records suggest that the scam earned the hackers $121,000.

So how did hackers manage to breach the Twitter accounts of such high-profile figures? Allegedly the hackers had access to an “agent tool” for Twitter. This gave them the ability to change the account-level settings of any user.

Apparently, hackers used this tool to change the recovery email of various celebrities. They were then able to use the reset my password function of Twitter to gain access to the accounts.

Twitter claimed that the hackers could gain access to these administrator tools through clever social engineering techniques.

6. 2019 MGM Data Breach

In 2020, it came to light that a previously disclosed cyber security breach by the MGM Grand Resort had been significantly played down by the company. In reality, the data of at least 10 million customers was compromised.

It also became apparent hackers had been exfiltrating this data for years undetected. In 2019, MGM contacted several customers admitting to the data breach. Recent revelations, however, suggest that they only contacted a small fraction of the affected customers.

Investigators found that the stolen information was being sold on darknet markets. The information may have been valuable to foreign intelligence agencies. Information about hotel booking may provide valuable intelligence as agencies can use it the confirm the whereabouts of persons of interest.

It appears that hackers could access the database due to the information being insecurely stored on the cloud.

Key Takeaways

  • In the last decade, data breaches have had a devastating impact on various multinational corporations.
  • Companies should avoid cooperating with or paying hackers. They should focus on cybersecurity investing instead.
  • Data breaches can go on undetected for years.

Increasing in Cyber Security Breaches

Throughout the last decade, many companies have asked themselves, “is cybercrime increasing, and do I need to invest more in security?”. It seems the answer to that question is very much yes.

The stories listed here illustrate that cybersecurity is a critical security issue for any company. They also show what a devastating impact a data breach can have.

These examples show how a data breach isn’t a one-time event. In organizations with poor security practices, hackers could be exfiltrating data for years before anyone notices. Also, the negative press surrounding an incident could go on for years, particularly if it comes to light that a breach was worse than initially reported.

These Cyber Attack Statistics Show How Important It Is for Companies to Invest in Security

Company executives are becoming increasingly aware of cyber attack statistics. This means they’re prepared to invest vast sums of money into cyber security solutions.

The next decade may be the perfect time to get into cybersecurity venture capital. We’re starting to see a significant cultural shift in which digital security is being taken as seriously as physical security.

If you’re looking for a company to help you navigate the complexities of cyber security investment, contact us today.


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