Another year, another slew of hacks. 2016 was much like 2015 and 2014 and years before that where corporations and individuals alike were hacked and breached but this year, things reached a new level where the playing field for global politics has been potentially rocked.
Here are some of the year’s biggest hacks that caught the headlines.
1. Yahoo can’t catch a break
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Yahoo thought the worst of it was over, but on December 14 it announced news of a data breach that happened in 2013 where one billion (yes, billion) accounts were compromised. This is bad enough but the news comes just a few months after the revelation that 500 million accounts were hacked in 2014.
Whether it’s email or Flickr or even your ISP (some UK ISPs outsourced their mail services to Yahoo), you are in all likelihood affected. Who’s to blame this time around? Who knows, the fingers were pointed at Russian foes last time but one thing is for certain, Yahoo’s new owners Verizon can’t be happy. Change your passwords.
2. The DNC, Trump, and Russia
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Speaking of nation states, the hacking scandal around the DNC and President-elect Donald Trump keeps twisting and turning. The Obama administration and CIA has officially taken the line that Russian “interfered” in the election to ensure a win for Trump but it hasn’t released the evidence for scrutiny.
This week though it was revealed that one of John Podesta’s aides inadvertently flagged a malicious email as safe, which may have provided the hackers the access they needed. On the other hand, Julian Assange is still claiming that emails were indeed leaks from a DNC insider, not hacks from the outside. As the days to Trump’s inauguration boil down, we’re left with more and more questions.
3. The year of ransomware
Photo by Flickr@N07/31229519675/ user Christiaan Colen.
Ransomware had a good 2016. The malicious viruses, which ballooned into dozens of different types and strains this year, have been around for years but in 2016 in turned into what security pros have called an epidemic. The malware, which typically infects a system, encrypts its files, and demands a bitcoin ransom, has led to several high profile cases, from hospitals and local businesses to universities and even churches finding their computers attacked.
In some cases, the hackers have demanded tens of thousands of dollars. In this year’s most infamous example, a hospital in California forked over $17,000 to get their files back. The lesson? Always keep secure back-ups.
4. Mirai and the new age of DDOS attacks
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Ransomware wasn’t the only cyber threat phenomenon that made waves in 2016. DDOS attacks have simply gotten bigger and bigger. On October 21, several major websites including Twitter, Spotify, and Reddit were all knocked off online when DNS service provider Dyn was struck by a massive DDOS attack orchestrated with insecure IOT devices, which have flooded the market. How did the culprits pull this off?
By using Mirai, a piece of malware that can hijack flawed devices and turn them into an unwitting traffic army. The Mirai code was recently made publicly available. It was also allegedly behind a partly-botched attack on Deutsche Telekom in German, cutting off internet access for thousands of customers. The reality though is that DDOS attacks are only getting bigger and bigger.
5. The Bangladesh Bank heist
In February, a team of still-unknown hackers managed to steal $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh. It was a staggering accomplishment but not the full picture. They had initially attempted to scoop up $1 billion but were cut off mid heist. The hackers had exploited vulnerabilities in the SWIFT network, a global messaging system used by banks for transferring money.
There’s no clear culprit but North Korea has been suspected while SWIFT has since identified over a dozen more cases of its system being used to steal money from banks. Central banks are becoming big targets for large scale cyber heists. Just a few weeks ago, hackers stole $19 million from Russia’s central bank meanwhile SWIFT-based attacks are becoming unnervingly more common.