The Internet is an extraordinary thing. It interconnects people all over the world instantaneously. It allows businesses to function at far higher levels. It has increased the connectivity between social media users in ways that are growing each and every day. Nothing seems to surprise us anymore on the Internet, a place where you can find information about a restaurant just as easily as you can find naked pictures of celebrities, porn and a dissertation on how to eat sushi. “Google it” people say.
Then there are those who see opportunity on the Internet. Like with anything in the world, build it and thieves will come. And they have. Since the 2000s, cybercrimes have been increasing with regularity. And there are hackers who act on moral high ground, attempting to expose the evils of the world. Then there are the plain old hackers who are out for the green. As the years go on, the crimes have become more sophisticated and threaten more than just bank accounts and computer operations.
Some cybercrimes have been associated with world powers. Hacking has not only become an art form for the computer whizzes at home, governments have seen it as an opportunity to attack one another and gain secret information. You can even mess with someone’s nuclear weaponry from afar. The facts are staggering of how truly catastrophic a computer hack can become. Here are the 10 most sensational hacks of all time.
10 Google – Operation Aurora
Really Google? You? The company that is one of the stalwarts in the technology field? The place where employees can take cat naps during the day and have an amazing food court to choose from? Yes. Google got hacked, in a very ironic twist, in 2009. Operation Aurora was a series of cyberattacks based out of Beijing China. “Aurora” was part of the file path on the attacker’s machine. The goal was to infiltrate high tech, security and defense contractor companies through Google’s systems. Google was very tight-lipped about what went down. Perhaps a little egg on the face?
9 Target – Debit and Credit Cards Targeted
40 million credit cards became compromised when discount retailer Target’s systems were hacked in 2013. The worst part is that this occurred during the heaviest shopping time of the year, the three weeks including and proceeding Black Friday. It is believed that their sale machines were hacked. Merry F’n Christmas.
8 Playstation Network Hack – Online Gaming at its Best!
In 2011, Sony learned that hacking isn’t just restricted to computers and the Internet. The Playstation network service was infiltrated and resulted in the loss of data from nearly 77 million user accounts. Sony was forced to take the entire network down for 20 days to regroup at a cost of a staggering 171 million dollars! Hackers were able to gain personal information on gamers as well as credit card information.
7 U.S. Government Breached – Defense or Offense?
Nearly 20 million current and former U.S. federal employees' personnel information was stolen in the biggest breach of the U.S. government’s computer networks in the nation's history. The Office of Personnel Management was the target of what is believed to be Chinese hackers. Data from nearly every U.S. government agency was stolen. The attack left the United States scratching their heads following the embarrassment.
6 Ashley Madison – Shhh
Ah. Ashley Madison. In July 2015, we learned that hackers stole mountains of data from Ashley Madison. The fall-out from this is going to be absolutely epic. First, the site itself promotes extramarital affairs. The whole idea of Ashley Madison is that if you’re a married guy (or girl), we can get you laid with a stranger. They even have a money back guarantee on it!
The other product of the site is hooking strangers up for sexting and sexually-intense online discussions where men believe they are talking to women. In actuality, it’s dudes talking to other dudes (it’s been estimated that 90-95% of Madison users are actually men). Yeah, that’s the Internet for ya. So hackers saw this evil business venture which profited off of misery and deceit as the perfect target.
They Robinhooded in to hack the data. They have names, credit card numbers and all kinds of personal fetish information on nearly 32 million people; most of whom are married men scattered all across the world. Currently, private investigative companies are exploding with calls as we speak. This is no joke, some of their businesses are up 1000% right now just because of this hack. There are numerous reports of extortion efforts taking place as men attempt to conceal the massive data leak.
Thousands and thousands of lives will be impacted and a lot of money will be spent over this insanity (think of the divorce fall-out alone). And as of today, Ashley Madison is being sued for $157 million over the breach. Stay tuned.
5 Albert Gonzalez – Master Hacker
Albert Gonzalez executed one of the most massive identity thefts of all time. From 2005 to 2007, Gonzalez and his crew used SQL injections to steal 170 million ATM and credit card numbers from major retailers like TJ Maxx, DSW and Dave and Busters. The numbers were then sold at auctions, netting Gonzalez’s crew a ton of dough. Like all criminals, he eventually got caught. In 2010, Gonzalez went to court and despite claiming he was an undercover agent (maybe court isn’t the best place to drop that bomb, homie), he was laughed out to the tune of a 20-year prison sentence.
4 Microsoft Word – The Melissa Virus
You have to give credit where credit is due. Any hack that occurred in 1999 gets some serious props. The Melissa Virus was the brainchild of a New Jersey programmer who was a little too bored at work. David L. Smith created the Microsoft Word virus which spread through people’s emails, automatically forwarding itself to the first 50 names found in an infected computer’s address book. (Finally! This is where it pays to have a last name of X, Y or Z). Posing as a regular Microsoft word file on your desktop, the virus astonishingly made its way through nearly 20% of the computers all around the world. Microsoft and Intel were forced to shut down outgoing emails until they got a handle on the situation. Smith received a sentence of 10 years but only served 20 months in jail.
3 Stuxnet Hack – Iran's Nuclear Program Targeted
The United States and Israel initiated one of the most sophisticated cyber attacks of all time in 2010. (The only surprise is that we know about it). Known as Stuxnet, the malicious software was a worm designed to specifically target Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities. The worm disrupted the operations like a smart bomb, attacking Siemens Industrial Controllers, which operated some of Iran's nuclear power plants' centrifuges. It caused the centrifuges to spin at uneven speeds. I’m no scientist, but this sounds very dangerous.
2 TJ Maxx and Marshalls – 2 For 1
Department stores TJ Maxx and Marshalls got hit simultaneously, twice as worse than Target. However, this was back in 2006 and instead of just 40 million credit cards getting compromised, they were hacked at an epic scale: 94 million domestic and international accounts containing credit card, debit card and check information were stolen. This is just one of the reasons I don’t have credit cards with retailers.
1 Sony Entertainment Hacked – Sony: Part Two
It’s as if Sony has a target on their back. On November 24, 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment was spread open like a carcass on an autopsy table. Neither is pretty and thousands of communications, including emails and information about Sony employees was stolen.
North Korean hackers supposedly targeted the company due to a Seth Rogen film entitled The Interview, whose plot was focused on the assassination of Kim Jong-un. Well, the North Koreans must not have seen Rogen’s other films which are never taken too seriously. But regardless, they didn’t find anything funny about their Supreme Leader having his head forcibly exploded on camera.
This caused the hackers to go in and steal as much dirt as Sony Pictures had. There were additional terrorist threats made against movie theater chains that were set to showcase the film on Christmas Day. And guess what, it worked. The film was pulled after nearly all the theater chains wanted no part of the risk and bounced the movie out.
It didn’t stop there as embarrassing private inter-communications about many professionals in the entertainment industry which were exchanged via Sony big wigs were also made public. Long standing president of Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal was sacked over the scandal. The cost of the attack will far exceed $100 million at the end of the day and this is the first time the powerful entertainment industry was brought to its knees. No figures will ever be confirmed on the damages caused, but it will definitely affect Sony for a long, long time.