In the era of information, security and privacy are as important as accessibility and speed. Viruses and malware code, in general, have been a part of the online world since the dawn of computer technology. And the last decade has been labeled as the epitome of vulnerability, despite all the attempts made to create Fort Knox-like online work environments.
Hackers are no longer content with simply overriding a few safeguards. Modern malware code is designed to disrupt entire networks, steal users’ credentials, or to expose classified information. This article will document some of the worst cybersecurity breaches of 2017, actions that not only robbed users of their identities but also put countless people’s lives in jeopardy.
Wolf Creek’s Man-in-the-Middle Breach
Perhaps one of the most infamous cases of security breaches that might have had disastrous implications is the Wolf Creek’s nuclear power plant incident. Discovered in July by a joint team comprising of specialists from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, this cyber attack targeted US’s nuclear power plants network.
According to the authorities, this breach might have stemmed from a phishing attempt, which targeted the power plant’s personnel. More specifically, under the pretense of seeking employment, the authors behind this attack created false resumes in which they injected a malware code.
These resumes were then sent to the engineers who had access to the plant’s electrical systems. Although the event did not have the catastrophic impact one would imagine, it did raise a series of concerns regarding national security. Moreover, it appears that the breach might have been a smoke screen for a more sinister purpose – to map the entire nuclear power plant network so that it can be crippled in one swift attack.
Washington University’s Invisible Man Heist
Documented on the 15th of July, this case is, without a doubt, one of the most baffling cyber heists of 2017. As a result of this breach in security, the personal data of over one million people affiliated with the Washington University has vanished over the night.
Even more mind-boggling is that the compromised data wasn’t stored on a secure server, but on a physical hard-drive that was locked in a safe. The investigation revealed that the culprit opened the safe, stole the hard-drive, and disappeared without a trace.
According to the Washington University, the targeted device contained information on several institutions including schools and state agencies, along with social security numbers, bank accounts, and even health records.
WikiLeaks’ Reveals CIA’s Involvement in Device Hacking
The notorious WikiLeaks revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency is taking advantage of unpatched security flaws in personal routers in order to eavesdrop on the population.
What makes WikiLeaks’ claims even more inflaming is the fact that these major security flaws the CIA has decided to take advantages of, can be found in equipment sold by big-time companies such as Linksys and D-Link.
The preferred method of circumventing router security seems to be toolkit called Vault7. Online security experts claimed that CIA’s home-made hacking toolkit is capable of removing network passwords by tampering with the device’s firmware.
As you would imagine, with this router hacking toolkit, the state agency could easily monitor user’s data, without them being aware of it. One workaround for this issue would be to find an ISP whose routers have the latest firmware security updates.
Internet Service providers have deployed antispyware measures and with plans like HughesNet Satellite Internet eavesdropping attempts are daunted straight away.
NHS Becomes Target Practice for Ransomware Creators
WannaCry, the latest ransomware addition, has managed to cripple entire networks in over 150 countries. However, according to the reports, it would seem that Great Britain’s NHS and FEDEX have bore the brunt of these breaches.
Aftermath estimates should that at least half a dozen of health institutions from around the country were unable to ensure patients’ data security. Furthermore, following the attack, several hospitals had to postpone interventions and to cancel patient appointments.
Security experts believe that the WannaCry ransomware managed to infiltrate the network via phishing attempts. The viral malware code was embedded in emails, which were sent to various addresses. When the recipient opened the email, the viral content would delete the user’s pass codes, encrypting the data with its own password.
To retrieve the stolen data, the user or, in this case, the institution, would have to pay a Bitcoin ransom, which was usually between $300 and $600. At the end of the day, the Government was compelled to pay approximately $30,000 to regain control of the infected devices.
Freedom Hosting II Server Eliminated
Considered one of the largest and secured web hosts, the Freedom Hosting II server has also fallen prey to hackers. An in-depth analysis of the event reveals that Freedom Hosting II, which also hosts approximately 20 percent of all websites labeled as belonging to the dark web, was targeted by a single person, who managed to steal no less than 74 GB-worth of information from its database.
Allegedly, among the data stolen by the perpetrator was also the credentials to 380,000 email addresses, some of which belonged to governmental agencies. The analysis also revealed that the database also contained information on several dark web website which dealt in child pornography.
Although most of the events showcased by this article did not have disastrous consequences, it does reiterate the need to adopt more draconic security measures. Furthermore,despite that most of the data has been retrieved, these attacks again underline the fact that even a heavily-guarded objective such as the US nuclear power plant network can be as vulnerable and prone to attacks as a unsecured home network.