Technology has taken a turn for expansion, making this, the era of new devices and gadgets. With the rise in technological advances and demand for devices, technology has risen far beyond many people’s expectations. And with that rise, comes the need for security. As with all things we have, security over our possessions is something that keeps us safe and able to sustain peace of mind, knowing our property will not be touched by the wrong hands. The same goes for applications or information which we have stored online in places like iCloud from Apple and OneDrive by Microsoft.
People from all over the world work hard every day to ensure that the safety of our online endeavors remains unbreakable. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. There are individuals who fall victim to hackers and even giant companies who considered their digital walls impenetrable, only to have them falling down moments later. And while there are hackers stealing data every day, some data breaches have been a little more dramatic and posed a greater threat than most when it came to the security of major companies along with their many customers. Listed here are fifteen of the scariest hacks and data breaches we have encountered in the 21st century.
It’s certainly a terrible situation to run into, but sometimes hackers find their way into systems and steal important information such as passwords, usernames and even credit card information. LivingSocial, which is a very famous online marketplace, experienced their intense share of hackers in the not so distant past. In 2013, hackers breached the website’s security, giving them access to an extremely high amount of personal information. The hackers gained access to more than 50 million personal files. This included passwords, names, emails, and even birthdays that were considered breached. LivingSocial has served over 70 million customers over the years, making this a huge breach in their digital wall. However, customers in other countries were untouched by the hackers, mainly because other countries have different servers on which they operate. Robert Hansen, a director at WhiteHat Security, had this to say about the breach: “If there are approximately a billion people on the Internet, this hack single-handedly represents about half a percent of all Internet users. This could be catastrophic, not for the accounts and credit cards that are stolen directly, but also because of password reuse of all of those millions of users. They should be changing their passwords immediately.”
Zappos exists as an online shoe and clothing store which was founded in 1999. The shop is originally based in Las Vegas and has grown to be a go-to place for great fashionable trends, as well as various styles of handbags. It’s a great site with many different items to choose from, but even great sites like this fall victim to hackers. In 2012, Zappos experienced a breach in their security, by someone who hacked their system. 24 million customers had fallen victim to the work of a group of cyber-criminals. All together, the hackers stole addresses, names, and the last four digits of the cards which these people used on the site. However, Zappos insisted at the time of the hack that all passwords were protected with a special encryption. They did do an overall reset of all the passwords on the site, but Zappos assured everyone that this was just a precaution. One of the positive sides of this hack was that the hackers did not have access to all of the customers’ credit card numbers, as only the last four digits of the cards were exposed. However, this doesn’t mean that the treat was minimal, considering the high amount of people that were affected in this cyber attack.
13. Ashley Madison
The truth is, everyone has secrets. And in the world we live in today, many argue that the structures of all major businesses and success stories, are built upon secrets and people’s ability to keep them. One of the best sites to add as an example of infamous secret keeping, is Ashley Madison. For those who do not know, Ashley Madison is an online dating service, as well as a social networking service, based in Canada. In 2002, its founder, Darren Morgenstern, founded the site for people already in relationships and looking to hookup online. It’s a site that spikes up moral questions, to say the least, but nonetheless, it attracted many different individuals to the site. And like many others, the site’s security features were breached in 2015 by a group calling themselves “The Impact Team”. This group ended up stealing 37 million records from the site. Practically all of the site’s data was stolen during the hack, and various records were exposed, revealing many hidden truths about the website. Apparently, most of the female profiles were fake. Also, the company was found to be using chat bots, which would trick men into spending various amounts of money.
Anthem is widely known as one of the most popular health insurance companies around. They’re known for their security and the means of safety when it comes to their online workings. However, no one is perfect, and sometimes, even the best fall victim to hackers. In 2015, Anthem was struck by a very advanced cyber attack. The many customers of Anthem were greeted by an email one morning stating that their systems had been breached. Anthem informed everyone of the possibility that their social security numbers, birthdays, addresses, and even certain employment information might have been stolen. When the system was hacked, the cyber attacker had access to a database of 80 million people. “Anthem will individually notify current and former members whose information has been accessed. We will provide credit monitoring and identity protection free of charge so that those who have been affected can have peace of mind,” Joseph Swedish said in the email which was sent to everyone involved with Anthem as a customer. What was considered one of the largest health care breaches, spokeswoman Cindy Wakefield said, “The company is still investigating exactly how many records were actually stolen but, “at this point we believe it was tens of millions.”
There are few who are not aware of the famous shopping locations known as Target, but for those who do not know, Target is the second largest discount retailer in the US, making it fall just behind Walmart. In the past, Target prided themselves in their security advances, however, in 2013, that pride fell short when a vicious cyber attack costed them a great loss. Hackers had somehow installed a malware on Target’s computer systems, allowing the hackers access to over 70 million card numbers from Target customers. Immediately after learning about the problem, Target put a team of investigators to work, trying to find how the hackers breached the system. They worked extremely hard to find the solution and came up with some answers. It turned out that the malware the hackers used, allowed them to gain access to the cards by point of sale. Of course, Target attempted to make things right by offering free data monitoring, as well as 10% off any of their future purchases. Unfortunately, what had been done was already affecting their sales, leaving Target with a great loss. And while Target has since built up their sales, the attack still reigns on their reputation.
Adobe Systems, a computer software company, is naturally tuned with safety when it comes to the security of their products and websites. So, it came as a shock to a lot of people when they learned of a cyber attack which affected the company. In 2013, Adobe was struck with a cyber attack that not only threatened their customers, it threatened what Adobe had created as well. After the data breach had occurred, Adobe learned that 38 million of their customers’ IDs and passwords had been stolen. It was a terrible ordeal, and to add to the chaos something else was discovered; the Adobe Photoshop source code had been stolen as well. It was an excruciating problem for everyone at the company. Adobe spokesperson Heather Edell, had this to say about the entire incident: “So far, our investigation has confirmed that the attackers obtained access to Adobe IDs and (what were at the time valid), encrypted passwords for approximately 38 million active users. We have completed email notification of these users. We also have reset the passwords for all Adobe IDs with valid, encrypted passwords that we believe were involved in the incident—regardless of whether those users are active or not.”
Since the 90’s, eBay has been providing us with an online auction site that possessed smooth and painless processes of auctioning off items from individual sellers. Never has it been easier to auction something off online. eBay, who’s subsidiary is PayPal, has always had a rather tight-knit security. That is, until they were hacked in 2014 by cyber criminals. This amazing auction site had their security breached and their customers’ information stolen. Birth dates, phone numbers, names, addresses, emails, and even passwords were stolen from the database. Luckily, eBay stated that all of the passwords on the site had been encrypted, but still sent out a warning to everyone, stating that they should reset their passwords as soon as possible. This was simply done as a precaution, as eBay wasn’t taking any chances. Fortunately, PayPal was untouched, as the site is set up on a different system than that of eBay. While no payment information was lost to the criminals, this doesn’t take away from the fact that this was a very large data breach, and it cost eBay quite a loss in sales, placing fear in a lot of people who became afraid to even post or buy anything on eBay.
8. Home Depot
When it comes to home improvement, we trust a lot of places to provide the tools and services that we need in order to make our homes look exactly the way we envision, and for those who are DIY and proud of it, places like Home Depot are perfect for their projects. Home Depot has been trusted for many years by people all around the United States. And the last thing on people’s minds would have been the security of their payment systems, especially in 2014 when the entirety of Home Depot was hacked by terrible cyber criminals. In the United States, as well as Canada, hackers stayed in Home Depot’s systems and had access to all of the credit and debit card data for about five months. Compared to Target’s date breach, which only lasted around three weeks, this was a devastating hit for Home Depot. Brian Krebs, who is an internet fraud expert had a few things to say regarding the card process in which the criminals used: “If the crooks who buy stolen debit cards also are able to change the PIN on those accounts, the fabricated debit cards can then be used to withdraw cash from ATMs. Experts say the thieves who are perpetrating the debit card fraud are capitalizing on a glut of card information stolen from Home Depot customers and being sold in cybercrime shops online.”
Founded by Robert Carr, Heartland Payment Systems is a trusted place for processing payments. Since it was founded in 1997, Heartland has been providing its services to customers everywhere. It’s only natural that these customers trust the system to keep all of their payment information safe. However, in 2008, Heartland was breached by a cyber attack and it was learned that their system had been infiltrated, and credit and debit cards had been stolen. 100 million cards were believed to have been compromised, leaving a giant hole in Heartland’s center. Carr commented on the situation saying: “We get pinged 200,000 times per day by people trying to hack into our system. You do everything you can to make sure one of those pings doesn’t get through, and we thought we had done everything we could do.” Unfortunately, someone managed to breach the system, and as a result, so much information was stolen. It’s proof that cyber criminals are determined to break any security wall they can, just to get their hands on information that doesn’t belong to them. At the time, Heartland’s data breach was considered the largest card breach, ever. The customers of Heartland suffered greatly, causing many to lose their trust in the company.
6. TJX Companies
TJX Companies consists of various different stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, HomeSense, and Winners. It’s a large scaled company and has claimed to be the largest off-price department store for home fashion and apparel. What many may not remember is that in 2005, over a span of eighteen months, credit card and debit card numbers were stolen from the company’s systems. The stunning revelation about the ordeal was that the staggering amount of cards stolen was 45.6 million. At the time, that was the largest amount of cards ever stolen online via a data breach, leaving the company unsure of just how many people had been involved in the hack. “Given the scale and geographic scope of our business and computer systems and the time frames involved in the computer intrusion, our investigation has required a substantial period of time to date and is not completed,” the company said. In further regards to the extensive investigation, the company also stated: “We are continuing to try to identify information stolen in the computer intrusion through our investigation, but other than the information provided … we believe that we may never be able to identify much of the information believed stolen.”
5. Sony PSN
The PlayStation Network by Sony has been in use for quite some time by gamers all around the world. They provide quality digital media entertainment service that, like many large companies, have been prone to attack by various cyber hackers. A specific incident in 2011 sent the PlayStation service offline for seven days. During this time, hackers had access to the names, addresses, emails, passwords and even possible credit and debit card details from PlayStation members. This data breach was one of the largest at the time and expressed just how vulnerable PlayStation Network systems were. It was never truly confirmed how the company was hacked, however, the company let all who held their card information on the site know about the dangers of their cards possibly being compromised by saying: “Out of an abundance of caution, we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.” Sony also released a few words regarding the safety of online use, stating: “To protect against possible identity theft or other financial loss, we encourage you to remain vigilant to review your account statements and to monitor your credit or similar types of reports.”
Just like the United States has Charter and Comcast, the UK has TalkTalk, a phone and broadband service provider that offers great service. But in 2015, TalkTalk experienced a severe cyber attack. Soon after learning of the ordeal, TalkTalk sent out warnings to its customers, letting them know that addresses, names, and account information like credit and debit cards may have been compromised. It’s unnerving to receive such an email, but for TalkTalk, this was the second time their security had been hacked. Of course, due to the hack, TalkTalk’s shares began to dive tremendously. TalkTalk’s chief executive Dido Harding, was quoted in an interview saying: “I personally received a contact from someone purporting – as I say, I don’t know whether they are or are not – to be the hacker, looking for money.” When asked whether or not the customers’ bank information had been encrypted on the site, Harding responded: “The awful truth is, I don’t know. With the benefit of hindsight, were we doing enough? Well, you’ve got to say that we weren’t and obviously we will be looking back and reviewing that extremely seriously.” TalkTalk worked hard to resolve the issue, but even to this day, they’re having a hard time with the impact the hacks have had upon their reputation.
3. Sony Pictures’ Hollywood Hack
In 2014, Sony Pictures was hacked by a group of cyber criminals intent on releasing detailed information regarding the company, to the public. On the day of the attack, employees of Sony Pictures tried to log onto their computers, only to be met with a strange looking red skeleton along with the words: #Hacked by #GOP, along with a threat to release vital data to the public if certain unspoken demands were not met. Later on, links were discovered via hackers, where the information from Sony Pictures could be downloaded. While the entire situation was completely unsettling, Sony Picture executives Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, sent out information regarding the hack: “While we are not yet sure of the full scope of information that the attackers have or might release, we unfortunately have to ask you to assume that information about you in the possession of the company might be in their possession.” Afterwards it was discovered that Sony Pictures were unable to use their infected computers, and had to use new computers. It didn’t take long until one of the officials on the case was quoted, saying they were 99% sure that hackers from North Korea were behind the attack. While this can’t be confirmed, it certainly raised caution with many individuals.
2. U.S. Office of Personnel Management
2015 was a rough year for the Office of Personnel Management. A lot was going on within the department, but what truly set things back was the fact that hackers were able to gain control of personal information that should have been impossible to get to. Background investigation records and fingerprints were stolen, leaving over 20 million people affected. Beth Cobert, the director of the OPM, was completely devastated over the entire thing, not just because of the amount of information that was stolen, but also because her own information had been taken as well. Cobert had this to say, regarding the concern of notifications: “I understand that many of you are frustrated and concerned, and would like to receive this information soon. My personal data was also stolen in this breach, and I am eager to get my notification letter as soon as possible so that I can sign up for these services. However, given the sensitive nature of the database that was breached — and the sheer volume of people affected — we are all going to have to be patient throughout this notification process.” The officials working to make the data loss right were working hard day and night to make sure all was put back into place accordingly.
1. Medical Equipment
When we take a visit to the hospital, we take comfort in the fact that the machines we are being hooked up to are safe. Our thoughts wouldn’t be circling around someone possibly hacking into the machinery to cause harm to a patient. However, it’s been discovered just a few years ago that the machines in hospitals which require a hook up to the internet, are very vulnerable to attack. With the right means, one could hack into a hospital’s system and create many different problems. The purpose for medical devices being connected to the internet is for transmitting data electronically, offering a faster and more efficient information delivery service. While this information is being processed, a few researchers found that it is possible for a hacker to look into this data stream and steal vital information. Some say that the information in the system can even be changed, which presents many different safety breeches. It’s also been learned that with the right information, one could take control of certain machines. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to harm another by ways of hacking, but like researchers have found, it’s a possibility to consider when approaching the safety of everyone in a hospital.