The past year was a record-setter for hacking scandals, and the headlines show no signs of slowing as 2017 kicks off. In previous years, most network intrusions targeted enterprises and large corporations. But in 2016, we saw a much more diverse field of victims, ranging from celebrities, technology CEOs, political parties, even Netflix and the Olympics.
On Dec. 21, the Netflix Twitter account was hit by hacking collective OurMine, "a self-described white hat security group." The hackers tweeted a message saying they were "just testing" Netflix security, and suggested Netflix contact them to find out more. OurMine tweeted its message, along with an email address and logo, to the nearly 2.5 million Twitter followers of @netflix, which is Netflix's U.S. account.
2016 was also a year that saw digital security become an issue of national security and election year politics.
More Political Hacks
Perhaps one of the most disturbing trends in 2016 was the increased use of hacking to achieve geopolitical goals. Hacking groups linked to either the Kremlin or Russian president Vladimir Putin have been accused of reverting to Cold War tactics to weaken and delegitimize countries seen as political rivals.
A hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency's database, resulting in the publication of private medical records for several U.S. athletes, was attributed to a group of Russian hackers going by the names "Team Tsar" and "Fancy Bear." The group was also accused of hacking the Democratic Party’s network to find embarrassing information about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The attack against the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign was rumored to have been part of an orchestrated effort by Russia to use cyberwarfare to undermine the U.S. electoral process. While it's impossible to say what, if any, effect the hack had on the election of Donald Trump, it has escalated tensions between the two countries and caused alarm within the U.S. intelligence community.
And it isn't just national security that was in the spotlight in 2016. The year also saw a big jump in ransomware attacks, with individuals being targeted by hackers who encrypt their data in order to extort cash. Perhaps the largest such attack in 2016 was against the San Francisco transit system, which was targeted by a ransomware attack that resulted in travelers receiving free rides over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Individuals in the Crosshairs
Several high-profile individuals in the technology sector have also been targets of attacks this year, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. And Twitter's former CEO Dick Costolo and current CEO Jack Dorsey also suffered from hacks.
Most of these attacks seem to have come from well-known hacking collectives such as OurMine. But an independent hacker going by the handle "Lid" was able to hijack the Twitter account of Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe.
Hacks weren't just about digital defacement and a chance to embarrass political opponents, though. This year also saw the second largest bitcoin hack in history, resulting in the theft of more than $65 million of the cryptocurrency.
But it wasn't just digital currency that was stolen this year. A gang of Russian hackers also managed to break into more than 330,000 point-of-sale machines running software by Micros, an Oracle company. The hack hit cash registers used in food chains, hotels and retail stores.
And speaking of hotels, the U.S. hospitality industry suffered one of its largest hacks ever when 20 hotels owned by HEI Hotels and Resorts discovered malware running on point-of-sale machines used throughout the country. That hack may have resulted in the theft of customer data including account and credit card numbers.
This year there was even information about past traditional hacks involving the theft of users' email addresses and login information. Yahoo reported that in 2013, it suffered the largest breach in history, involving more than 1 billion user accounts. That exceeds the hack of 500 million accounts in 2014 that the company also reported this year.
Image credit: iStock/Artist's concept.
Posted: 2017-01-02 @ 8:35am PT
I think it's important for justice to have Hackers, as many of our constitutional rights are being stripped away. However, during the last 3 years of a divorce and custody battle, I found myself, a respectable Mortgage Manager under attack by people my ex- hired. It was so bad the way he falsely intertwined the schemes that I was stripped of all my money, hit with a vehicle, lost my employment, house, car and most importantly my son to a man with less than stellar morals.
It would seem to me there needs to be some oversight to protect innnocent victims, as right now there just isn't and whether govt. based or through private firms, there has got to be accountability for justice. I love the internet but there is no protection of our personal data. It may be far to great a task to hope for. Tor previously served justice but is always under attack for helping people keep some personal searches private.
Posted: 2016-12-31 @ 1:48am PT
I think hacking people is terrible and seems to me hackers don't have a life!! I own an iPhone and been have been hacked for months and have a lot of information that can put them in jail a real long time!!! They stole all my identity!! They are using my phone with their computer 10 and android phone, so these days it's not just the government being hacked it's a lot of people!!! I'm hoping they get caught they have nothing else to do but get into people's business. They need to catch these criminals and put them away for a life time I can't even use my phone. Hackers have total control they need to be stopped and this is what I think!!!!
Posted: 2016-12-25 @ 12:41pm PT
You think that you guys have seen hackers, you haven't seen anything. I've been in a battle for three straight years of non stop torture from a group of people called invisible people. They have access to your email accounts that harass you using different techniques through your phone. I'd love to show you evidence of their accessibility in Android and Apple phones. The reason I've been subject to this is I unwillingly discovered what they where doing. Maybe you can break the case and give some kind of identity to these people. The things I have been put through people take for granted. Thanks, Tyler Norman