Biggest Cyber Attacks in History: The Top Incidents of All Time

The internet can be a dangerous place, and as it expands, it’s due to become even more dangerous. Where the progression of technology is optimistic, the negative affects are results in criminal activities called cyber attacks. The development of the internet has brought forth a new line of cyber criminals, where anybody with a computer can gain attention and money. These criminals are specifically using the internet as a new vessel for their criminal activities, and these activities include malware, ransomware, phishing and insider threats.

Biggest Cyber Attacks in History: The Top Incidents of All Time

Attacks take place in huge incidents every year, but in this post, we’re focusing on the largest attacks in terms of those affected. Consumers and businesses alike can fall victim to a cyber attack when precious data is stolen. An attack can happen anywhere at anytime, so it’s always in your best interest to adopt a preventative mindset to be prepared for a potential attack. Our list starts with the least exposed to the most exposed (so far).

Biggest Cyber Attacks of All Time

  • Equifax
  • Google China
  • Heartland Payment Systems
  • Ebay
  • Adult Friend Finder
  • Yahoo

Equifax Data Breach

Date: July 29, 2017
Impact: 143 Million Accounts
Details: This cyber attack is fresh in our minds, because it’s recent within the year. It also received a vast amount of controversy involving how the attack was handled by the company and executive management. Affecting almost half of the population of the United States, important customer information was stolen in the massive data breach, including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses and even a limited-number of credit card information.

Being one of the largest losses of personal information, this breach has even lead to law enforcement action, and increased conversation surrounding legislation on protecting consumer data. Re-establishing trust in private business institutions is one of the most important goals currently.

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Google China Data Breach

Date: 2009
Impact: Unknown, but significant
Details: Taking a short leap into the past, the Google China data breach impact was significant, because it was a successful form of data loss and espionage. Breachers gained access to highly sensitive information on U.S. surveillance targets. Details and conversation was exchanged through Google Email servers, thus this is the way that the hackers gained the valuable information. In addition, 30 plus companies fell victim to a phishing scheme associated with the attack. As this is a small piece of a larger picture, the Chinese have reportedly stolen data information from several industries including defense, technology, aerospace, and oil and gas.

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Heartland Payment Systems Cyber Attack

Date: March 2008
Impact: 134 Million Credit Card Accounts
Details: In January 2009, Visa and Mastercard notified the mega-payment transaction firm of suspicious credit card transactions from processed accounts. The following investigation in the matter later impacted Heartland Payment Systems in monetary payments of $145 in compensation fraudulent payments. The firm was out of compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) resulting in it forgoing business transactions with major credit card providers for a limited time. This had a lasting negative impact on the company.

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Ebay Cyber Breach

Date: May 2014
Impact: 145 Million Accounts
Details: Even large and highly successful firms are not immune to cyber attacks. Ebay, the online auction website, reported a significant data breach in May 2014 that ultimately resulted in exposure of sensitive information including names, address, dates of births and passwords. Hackers gained access through company employees, most likely a phishing email, and sat within the system for 229 days collecting information before the breach was discovered by the company.

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Adult Friend Finder Security Breach

Date: October 2016
Impact: 412.2 Million Accounts
Details: As our list of impacted accounts grows, the next significant data breach brings us to the Adult content and casual hook-up FriendFinder network that has various websites including AdultFriend Finder, Penthouses.com, Cams.com, iCams.com and Stripshow.com. At the time of breach, the hackers were able to collect 20 years of valuable data including names, email addresses and passwords. The websites were easily exploited, because they used simple password protection that was hackable.

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Yahoo Cyber Attack

Date: August 2013
Impact: 3 Billion Accounts
Details: The Yahoo data breach is the gift that keeps giving. Slow to gain public awareness, the company Yahoo took several months to disclose the significant breach, and further information has just recently come to light involving the case. The first breach was recorded in 2014 resulting in names, email addresses, telephone numbers and dates of births exposed to hackers. As the investigation goes deeper, it’s found that Yahoo was in fact hacked several times that potentially impacted billions of users. The gifts keeps giving, recently Yahoo has announced that all 3 billion user accounts had been compromised.

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Cyber attacks are a reality that’s building awareness and attention. With consumer information being broadcasted through the internet by cyber attacks, it’s time for companies to adopt a new preventable approach to securing data. By activity monitoring and building cyber security  training, your company can move in the right direction.

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Megan Thudium

Megan Thudium

Megan Thudium is a Berlin-based writer with a passion for curating actionable and enlightening content for business leaders. A seasoned author, her latest works encompass topics in travel, business and information security. Follow Megan on twitter @megan_thudium.

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