From the mass theft of credit card information to viruses that have infiltrated the world’s largest financial institutions, cyber crimes have caused some of the largest thefts in history.
1982 – CIA
During the cold war, the CIA took to the internet and sent a logic-bomb to the Soviets in an attempt to foil the control system they were using to run the Trans-Siberian gas pipeline. The CIA inserted a line of code which blew up a portion of the gas line. The explosion was said to be the equivalent of 3 kilotons of TNT. This was one of the earliest known instances of cyber terrorism.
2000 – Amazon, CNN, eBay, Yahoo
In 2000, a 15-year-old Canadian boy was able to take some of the largest online companies offline using DDoS attacks. These types of attacks were relatively unheard of at the time. The major companies were not prepared to fend off the simple DDoS attacks that Michal Calace aka “MafiaBoy” was sending them.
2003 – Microsoft SQL
In 2003, the internet was brought down with a mere 376 bits worth of information.
In the span of a few hours, the malware was able to break through 75,000 servers, some of which included Washington Mutual and Bank of America. Continental Airlines was another major company that got hit. They had to postpone and cancel flights after their ticket system went offline.
Adding to the chaos, an Ohio nuclear power plant had one of its safety monitoring systems go offline and the city of Seattle lost its 911 line.
The malware was called the slammer worm and it exploited a problem with the Microsoft SQL server, which it had already attempted to repair 6 months prior.
2004 – Footnet
Based out of Ohio, Footnet became the world’s first “black-hat” internet hosting company. The ISP provided a secure passageway for hackers to wreak havoc on the internet. The servers hosted several illegal hacking forums and black markets.
In 2004, the FBI raided the ISP twice. The founder of the ISP, Saad Echouafni, skipped out on bail and fled the country. He is still on the FBI’s most wanted list.
2006 – Los Angeles
In 2006, Los Angeles, CA experienced a strike from their traffic engineers. Two of the striking engineers hacked into the computer system that controlled the 3,200+ traffic lights through the city. Engineers Gabriel Murillo and Kartik Patel targeted 4 of the business intersections and altered the signals to a worst-case scenario.
The city experienced massive traffic congestion surrounding the LAX International Airport and on highways throughout the city.
2008 – Albert Gonzalez
Albert Gonzalez and his partners in the US and Russia used a combination of SQL injection and Wi-Fi breaching to steal credit card information from millions of people. They targeted businesses like Dave & Busters, Office Max and 7-Eleven. Gonzalez was able to make millions of dollars by reselling the credit cards information that he gathered on the black market. Gonzalez was eventually caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
2010 – PayPal
PayPal fell victim to a series of cyber-attacks in 2010 and 2011. The attack cost the company $5.6 million in damages. The company became the target of 3 hackers, Christopher Weatherhead, Ashley Roads and Peter Gibson after the online merchant blocked donations that were going to the WikiLeaks website. The hackers were given a combined sentence of 31 months in prison.
2010 – NASDAQ
A group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers were targeting large retailers and eventually turned their attention towards NASDAQ. They designed a sniffer program which extracted credit card information during transactions that were places between different companies.
By the end of their run, they stole more than $160 million from credit cards alone and created another $100+ million in damages for their crimes. In total, they left $300 million in losses, making it the 2nd largest financial cybercrime in history.
2011 – Sony
In 2011, an estimated 77 million accounts in Sony’s PlayStation gaming network were hacked into. These accounts had the names, addresses, and passwords of each of their members.
Sony had no encryption on this information, which left it vulnerable and prime for an attack like this. They did have the credit card information encrypted, but most of that information was hacked through as well.
The attack forced Sony to take their entire network offline for 23 days. In total, the damages cost the company close to $100 million, making it one of the largest cyber attacks on a single company in history.
2015 – US, European and Asian Banks
After 2 years of planning, a group of Russian hackers used their custom designed malware to hack into over 100 banks and financial institutions around the globe. In total, they were able to steal over $840 million with their efforts, making it the largest financial cyber crime in history.
The group programmed viruses which infiltrated the systems of these banks. The virus collected data and was streaming it to the hacker group for months on end. The group funneled the money into fake accounts which they then took for themselves.