Top 20 Most Harmful Website Hacks of All Time

Computers have been around for more than 60 years, and even during the formative years of computer development, there has always been a history of hacking.

For old-timers who used mainframes, hacking was a way of playing around the machine, of proving to your peers that you were better than they were. This was one outlet for these highly intelligent individuals to blow off steam, at the same time push the boundaries of what they can do with the computer.

Unfortunately, the happy state of the intellectual pursuit of hacking started to give way to a sinister side during the 1960’s and 1970’s when a new type of white collar crime came about: computer crimes.

The most common type of computer crime was that of misappropriating funds. This was usually done by just adding a name to the check printing program. Of course, this type of embezzlement was quickly found out.

Other documented cases involved skimming money from countless transactions and having these automatically deposited into a bank account.

The money was usually in fractions of a cent which came about due to currency conversions or from fractional values in the accounting program. Instead of going into the ledger as statistical error, this was siphoned off and put into an account for later withdrawal.

Here is a list of twenty most harmful website hackings:

1. Citibank Wire Transfer Service, 1994

A Russian group called ArkanoID learned that the Citibank wire transfer service was open and easily accessible with minimal security. The group was able to play around with the system unnoticed by the bank’s systems administrators.

ArkanoID supposedly had no plans of any wrong doing, however, another Russian, Vladimir Levin was able to get the login details from one of ArkanoID’s group members. Levin was able to access the accounts of several of Citibank’s corporate clients and transferred funds to accounts in the United States, Israel and Europe.

2. The Love Bug virus

This virus was one of the first ever reported worm which stole data and forwarded it to a server (four servers, in fact). The model used in the Love Bug virus is the same still being used by bots.

That is, to get into the computer and transfer data. The only difference is that today’s worms are designed not to get caught. The damage brought about by the Love Bug virus is estimated to be in excess of $10 billion across at least 20 countries.

3. “Mafiaboy” Hacks

In 2001, a Canadian hacker called “Mafiaboy” was able to hack into several major internet sites including CNN. He was also responsible for security breaches in major educational institutions like Harvard and Yale. Mafiaboy was caught and charged with 66 violations relating to the attacks.

4. Los Angeles KIIS-FM

Hacking the LA KIIS-FM radio station netted it’s hacker, known as Dark Dante, luxury items which included a Porsche. The case escalated when he later hacked into the FBI’s database.

5. NASA and Department of Defense, 1999

Even before there was widespread internet, NASA software was downloaded by a teenage hacker with the callsign “c0nrad”. He was also able to hack into the Department of Defense and accessed employees personal communications. He purportedly wanted to see actual programs done in C from NASA. This was the first instance of a teenage hacker being convicted.

6. NASA, 2001–2002

A hacker going by the name “Solo” accessed and deleted files from NASA computers as well as other computers in U.S. Military installations from 2001 to 2002. The damage brought by the deleted files was estimated to be around $700,000. During that period, he was also responsible for shutting down more than 2000 computers in the Washington, D.C. Area.

7. DEC network hack

One of the pioneers of the internet was Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC). In 1979, 16 year old Kevin Mitnick hacked into the DEC network and illegaly copied some of the software.

He was later caught and convicted but was able to escape before being caught again, this time for good. He now works as a computer and network security expert with his own company, Mitnick Security Consulting, LLC.

8. New York Times and Microsoft

During the early 2000′s, Adrian Lamo was able to hack into the New York Times and Microsoft by the use of public internet connections. Other sites he hacked included Yahoo!, Cingular, Bank of America and Citigroup.

For hacking the New York Times, he was sentenced to six months of home confinement and another two years probation. Additionally, he was to pay $65,000 for damages.

9. Estonia DDoS, 2007

Striclty speaking, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) is technically not hacking. However, a worm is usually used to secure multiple computers needed to run a DDoS and once the computers are compromised, these could be used at to attack at will.

With lots of computers sending requests to a single web server, the server is swamped, could not serve web pages and then grounds to a halt. A case in point was the DDoS attack on Estonia in 2007. It started out as a retaliation for a plan to move a World War II memorial.

The original plan was to attack an Estonian newspaper and shut it down via a DDoS. However, the perpetrators did not know how much is too much, and the number of computers used in the attack forced the whole country of Estonia to an internet standstill.

Since then, more and larger websites have been under DDoS attacks. Sites such as Yahoo, Twitter and Google have undergone DDoS attacks. Additionally, there have been smaller sites using WordPress which have also been blacked out due to DDoS attacks.

In recent years, hacking has been used as a political tool or as a form of activism. Some groups which uses hactivism are Anonymous, Lulzsec, TeaMp0isoN and WikiLeaks. Countries like China, Pakistan, Russia, Iran and the United States have used hacking in one form or another.

Continuing the list are some well-publicized hacking perpetrated by hacktivists and by nation-states.

10. Stuxnet

Stuxnet has behaved like any other worm/virus and has been attacking computers indiscriminately.

11. Sony

In 2011, after George Hotz hacked Sony, subsequent attacks on Sony were perpetuated by Anonymous, Lulzsec and other hackers. The attack lead to website defacement, as well as leakage of customers’ information.

12. GMail

User passwords were stolen via phishing.

13. Electronic Arts

The Neverwinter game forum was hacked. Forum member database was at risk and presumed compromised.

14. German Federal Police

A customs service server was hacked. Presumed compromised were database contents which included license plates and number, police usernames and passwords, and a GPS application.

Up to 8GB of internal data pertaining to ongoing investigations were stolen.

16. Citigroup Japan

Customers’ credit card information was stolen.

17. Research In Motion

RIM’s Blackberry blog was hacked in retaliation for RIM’s participation with police investigations on rioters.

18. Hong Kong Stock Exchange

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s news site server was hacked. This lead to the suspension of trading for seven companies.

19. U.S. Military

Codes and access to Predator and Reaper drones were hacked.

20. Syrian Government

Seven major government websites were attacked as part of a coordinated operation called Operation Syria.

In some instances, these were crimes of opportunity. In other instances, these were done by hacking other’s accounts. Nowadays, hacking has progressed to using more complex methods.

During the past twenty years or so, there have been a lot of harmful hacks. Any list of the biggest or the most harmful website hacking would be incomplete because of the very nature of hacking.

It is very possible that there are a lot of website hackings which did not get on the news because the victims didn’t notice it or they did not want the publicity.

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