Governments organizations, financial institutions, hospitals, train stations, businesses, private businesses, individuals...there’s no end to the list of those who have fallen victim to cyber-attacks. They are malicious, done on purpose, and they not only affect information systems but also target computer networks, information infrastructures, and other personal information technology devices. The only way to stop them from spreading is by installing high-level security measures, or by hiring expert freelance IT gurus to fight back.
The Wannacry cyberattack is one of the most talked-about hacks in recent years, affecting around 200,000 victims in over 150 countries. The ransomware program, known as Wannacry or Wanna Decryptor, was launched on May 12 and spread through emails and other computer systems that lacked up-to-date security measures. Places affected were a number of hospitals and health centers in the U.K, a German train system, and a Spanish telecommunications provider.
The WannaCry hackers usually hold computers hostage, after which they demand ransom payments in cryptocurrency. US government agencies like the Department of Justice, the FBI, and other tech organizations advise that paying off criminals is not the way to go as it will only make them continue hacking for more money.
Also referred to as Disstrack, Shamoon is malware that overwrites data on the master boot record, rendering the data irrecoverable. Introduced in 2012 by a group calling itself the “Cutting Swords of Justice”, this malware is highly destructive and - depending on the number of systems it affects - renders the victims completely helpless. The main target of the group was the destabilization the Saudi Aramco company, which they succeeded in doing.
The attack also affected more than 30,000 other workstations which completely disrupted communications and web browsing. Other major companies affected by Shamoon were LNG Company and Qatari RasGas.
After four years, Shamoon returned with much more aggressive attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia. The same variants were in place but instead of using a burning American flag as the image after booting records, the body of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, who drowned, lit up screens.
The Titan rain cyberattack targeted US Intel, and initiated in China. Named by the FBI as Titan Rain, Shawn Carpenter from Sandia National Laboratories discovered it in 2004. The malware affected computer networks belonging to the US military and NASA, breaking down IT systems and infecting them with malware that made it almost impossible to retrieve some information from the database. The attack continued for three years before it was tackled by cybersecurity and system administrators.
The US government suspected Titan Rain to have originated from China, but the individual masterminds behind the attack remain a mystery. The hackers masked their real identities by using proxies and zombie computers. The attack pointed at the Chinese military, trying to gather as much information as they could on US defense systems.
Also referred to as Operation “Olympic Games”, this cyber-attack is believed to be the brainchild of the US government, in collaboration with the Israeli government. It was meant to put an end to, or damage, Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. The Stuxnet worm was able to damage the centrifuges in about fourteen of Iran’s nuclear plants.
The worm was first tested in Israel, and proved its effectiveness in the destruction of nuclear centrifuges. Israel has similar centrifuges of nuclear programs as that of Iran, and the test destruction delayed Israel’s ability to go ahead and produce their first ever nuclear arms. That is how destructive Stuxnet was. On top of it, there have been fears this virus is still trading illegally in the black hat hacker circle.
This attack, coordinated by a group calling itself Anonymous and made up of anti-Israel groups, began attacking Israeli websites on April 7, 2013. The anonymous attacks disrupted databases in schools, businesses, banks, and non-profit organizations all over Israel, leaking information and threatening to erase Israel from cyberspace. The attacks were in protest of the Israeli government’s mistreatment of Palestinians.
The Israeli government is now more aware of these cyber-attacks and is doing everything possible to train local companies on how to guard against them. It is not an easy feat to accomplish as the attackers are highly skilled and, unlike the government, mostly rely on quantity. Their main agenda is to destabilize the country politically and take money.
Shady Rat - Rat being an acronym for Remote Access Tool - is a cyber-attack that analysts believe to have originated from the Chinese government. Operation Shady Rat continues to target organizations and governments around the world, with the most affected being the US, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Canada, the UN, Vietnam, the IOC, and other major companies. The hackers install malware to gain information by accessing the computers and data. They perform this through emails with a link, which leads to a website with infected programs when clicked.
McAfee made a detailed report on the Shady Rat attacks and noted that in fourteen countries, 79 companies had been infiltrated, rendering them vulnerable to loss of vital information and leakages. Shady Rat hackers are motivated by company secrets and intellectual information, especially from defence organizations. They do not do it for money nor political reasons, unlike other well-known cyber attackers.
July 2009 Cyber-attacks
The July 2009 cyber-attacks targeted US government websites, most notably the Pentagon and the White House. There was also an attack on government agencies in South Korea. The attacks coincided with increased tension between South and North Korea. Believed to have originated from China and Russia, these attacks affected many powerful companies in the US before they caught the eye of US intelligence agencies.
There was an aggressive distribution of vaccine during and after the attack to help fight the hackers, especially in South Korea. Though the attacks were not as sophisticated as many other cyber-attacks, they were still scary and left some damage. The hackers commandeered over 50,000 computers, flooding websites with access requests which greatly slowed down business in the affected organizations, with others stalling completely.
Some of the most affected websites were those of the Treasury Department, Federal Trade Commission, The Secret Service, and the Transport Industry. However, it didn’t take long to correct everything, and the websites went back to normal function.
Denial of Service Attacks
This is one of the biggest cyber-attacks, affecting bank websites and making them crash. Though known to have the best protection against cyber-attacks, banks somehow cannot protect themselves effectively against this one.
A Denial of Service attack overwhelms all online bank services, making it almost impossible for users to access the affected websites. Besides banks, hackers also target news websites, making it challenging for publishers to access vital information.
Denial of Service cyber-attacks have been around for years. Their aim is not to breach any security. Their main concern is to make it hard for users to access the servers and websites. Some of the most recent banks adversely affected are Bank of America, and Chase Bank.
Hacking may alter information, steal it away or target something specific, but the fight against cyber-attacks goes on.
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