Technology is a powerful resource that generates enormous value. With each successive day, we climb the ladder of technological advancement, and the graph never goes down. This widespread advancement has given rise to concepts like the Cyber Space, where the whole world can interact with minimal effort. However, technological advancement is a paradoxical concept, where, as the cyber space expands, so do its flaws and loopholes. And with each exploited flaw, the damage increases. In the given article, Hacks have been chosen not on the basis of their magnitude but the impact they had on societal thought and practices.
Here are 5 such hacks of the 21st century that changed the course of technology:
In March 2011, Epsilon, an online market firm that provided email services to giants like J.P Morgan and the Barclays, was hit by a database hack. It exposed the names and email addresses of millions of consumers leaving them vulnerable to further phishing attacks. While Epsilon attempted damage control by stating that only 12 of their clients were affected, as the client names were released it became clear that the loss was in millions. With giants like TiVo, BestBuy, Citigroup, and numerous other banks being hit, this hack made waves around the world regarding the security of e-banking networks.
Titan Rain was not a single attack but a series of attacks conducted by a freelance hacker group based out of China. The group was given the iconic tag in 2003 when it hit the US Department of Defense and acquired sensitive information. The group remained extremely active from 2003-2006 when it hit governments of various countries, and is believed to still be operating in a discreet way. Its major attack on the US DOD resulted in the clash between the US and China. The US government accused the Chinese government and the People’s liberation Army of conducting cyber attacks.
The PSN Outage
On 17th of April, 2011 Sony’s Play Station Network was attacked resulting in information leak of over 77 million users. As a result, Sony had to take PSN down for 24 days to fix it, which was a nightmare for Play Station users who could not play online for more than 3 weeks. It initially started as a small outage with the message “will be fixed within a day” but it turned out to be almost a month long thing with the release of a whole new PS Firmware.
PayPal (Operation Avenge Assange)
After WikiLeaks released large amounts of classified files, PayPal suspended WikiLeaks’ accounts so the anti-secrecy site could no longer receive online donations. This prompted hacktivist group Anonymous to attack the website with what later came to be known as one of the largest Distributed Denial Of Service (DDoS) attacks in history. Anonymous pulled all their resources to launch an anti-secrecy campaign which went on to incorporate more than 100000 people whose acts broke down PayPal servers. This was a huge statement by the group which later went on to attack big financial institutions in an operation aptly named after Wikileaks founder, Avenge Assange.
Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm that came before. Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak physical destruction on equipment. Stuxnet was a virus developed by (allegedly) the governments of Israel and US to disrupt Iran’s nuclear efforts. However, the virus went on to expand and the effect many other countries. Much criticism was directed towards the US for manufacturing what came to be known as the first digital weapon.