A selection of some of the largest cybercrimes ever committed.
Cyberattacks have unfortunately become a part of everyday life for many companies, with thousands of attacks carried out every day. Luckily few are big enough to make the news, but every now and then an attack will cause such damage as to gain worldwide attention. So here are ten of the biggest crimes in Internet history.
One of the most widespread attacks of recent times, in January this year US retailer Target revealed it had been hit in a major data breach the previous month. The company revealed that details from over 70 million customer credit and debit cards were stolen in the attack by Russian malware author Rinat Shabayev, and the news led to the resignation of Target’s CEO and chairman, Gregg Steinhafel.
Rumoured to be the work of US and Israeli special agents, the Stuxnet worm exploits a vulnerability in Windows to attack industrial systems such as those used in nuclear power plants. Discovered in June 2010, systems in several countries, including the United States, were affected, with Iran the worst hit, with over 16,000 computers infected. The Israeli government has neither confirmed nor denied involvement, but a 2011 New York Times investigation concluded that the worm had been developed and tested in Israel.
Approximately 77 million PlayStation Network (PSN) and other Sony Online Entertainment accounts were hacked in 2011, with credit and debit card information being stolen from users. The attack, which went on for 24 days, also allowed hackers to log into affected accounts, even when Sony said it was fixing the breach. Overall, the damage was estimated at around $2bn in compensation and repairs.
Considered by many in the security industry as one of the worst cyberattacks in history, the Spamhaus Project was a reaction against the titular company, which provides email filter services to block spam mail, blacklisting the Cyberbunker website. Cyberbunker retaliated by hiring hackers to target Spamhaus, exploiting home and broadband routers to shut down the company’s systems.
In 2009, Canadian researchers acting on behalf of the Dalai Lama, who believed he was under surveillance by the Chinese authorities, uncovered a huge electronic spying network which had infiltrated computers in over a hundred countries. The researchers also found that ministries of foreign affairs and embassies in Iran, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Thailand, Germany, and Pakistan were also affected.