The 10 Biggest Cyber Attacks In History

Published June 26th, 2021 - 09:00 GMT
The 10 Biggest Cyber Attacks In History
Technology is a double-edged sword, while it is a great asset and can provide us with new advanced methods of security, there are still those who misuse it and can pose a threat to our privacy. (shutterstock)

Cyber attacks and crimes are no new news. However, with more of our information being shared online than ever before, we might be more vulnerable than we might like to believe. A 2020 report suggests that cyberattacks on infrastructure were the fifth top risk of the year. Not only that but it is expected that the cost of cybercrimes might reach $10.5 trillion dollars by 2025. 

These numbers are alarming, and for us to better understand the tremendous impact that cyber attacks might have on companies and individuals, it is important to go back down memory lane and take a look at some of the biggest cyber attacks in history: 

1. The destruction of the Melissa Virus
One of the earliest and biggest cyber threats was started by the Melissa Virus. In 1999, the Melissa Virus was unleashed by programmer David Lee Smith by sending users a file to be opened by Microsoft Word. The virus caused severe destruction to hundreds of companies, including Microsoft. It is estimated that repairing the affected systems cost around $80M. 

2. Nasa Cyber Attack
In 1999, 15 year old James Jonathan was able to hack and shutdown NASA’s computers for 21 days. Around 1.7M software were downloaded during the attack, which cost the space giant around $41,000 in repairs. 

3. The 2007 Estonia Cyber Attack
In April 2007, Estonia witnessed what is thought to be the first cyber attack on an entire country, during which about 58 Estonian websites went offline, including websites of governments, banks and media outlets. 

4. A Cyber Attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network
A cyber attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network in April 2011 claimed the personal information of 77M users. 

5. Adobe Cyber Attack
The cyber attack which was first thought to have breached the data of 2.9M users soon went on to compromise the personal data of up to 38M users! Adobe claims that only the passwords and credit card information of the first 2.9M were compromised, whereas the remaining 35.1M only suffered the loss of their passwords and IDs. 

6. The 2014 Cyber Attack on Yahoo
In 2014, Yahoo witnessed one of the biggest cyber attacks of the year when 500M accounts were compromised. However, it is reported that basic information and passwords were stolen, whereas bank information was not. 

7. Ukraine’s Power Grid Attack
In what was the first cyberattack on a power grid, the attack left around half of the homes in the Ivano-Frankivsk region in Ukraine without power in 2015 for about a few hours. 

8. 2017 WannaCry Ransomware Cyber Attack
One of the biggest ransomware of all time took place in 2017, when around 200,000 computers were affected in more than 150 countries. This outbreak had a massive impact across several industries and had a global cost of about 6B pounds!

9. A Cyber Attack on Marriott Hotels went unnoticed for years 
A cyber attack was lurking in the shadows for quite a while when Marriott acquired the Starwood Hotels group, and it did not come into light until 2018. However, by then the attacker continued to have access to personal information of guests. An estimated 339M guests have had their data compromised. This had led the UK’s data privacy watchdog to fine the Marriott Hotels 18.4M pounds. 

10. The biggest password leak yet
It was reported earlier this June that a compilation of about 8.4B passwords were leaked. This by far is the biggest password leak and is referred to as RockYou2021 in reference to the 2009 data breach of RockYou site that compromised around 32M accounts. 

In short, the more we move towards digitalization and technology, the more vulnerable we become to cyber threats. Technology is a double-edged sword, while it is a great asset and can provide us with new advanced methods of security, there are still those who misuse it and can pose a threat to our privacy. Therefore, it is imperative for governments and businesses to invest in upping their cyber security and privacy in order to combat cyber attacks. 

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