A history of major cyberattacks over the past 10 years
A huge range of organizations and companies around the world were affected by the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack over the weekend, described by the E.U.’s law enforcement agency as “unprecedented.” From “cyberwar” to “hacktivism,” here are some of the major cyberattacks over the past 10 years:
One of the first massive cyberattacks to hit a state occurred in spring 2007 in the Baltic nation of Estonia, when a spate of intrusions forced the closure of government websites and disrupted leading businesses. The assault paralyzed key corporate and government web services for days and knocked out the national emergency hotline for more than an hour. Estonia, which was in the midst of a diplomatic dispute with Russia, blamed Moscow for the attacks, which it denied.
A year later, Georgia suffered similar attacks which crippled its official presidential website and the main broadcast networks during the South Ossetia war. The attack was attributed to Russian nationalists.
In July 2009, a dozen U.S. government websites, including those of the White House, Pentagon and State Department, were targeted in a coordinated cyberattack, which also struck sites in South Korea. South Korea was again the victim of a cyberattack in March 2013 amid tensions with North Korea. The attack paralyzed the websites and tens of thousands of computers at several TV stations and banks for hours.
In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of the biggest cyberattack in U.S. corporate history, linked to its North Korea satire The Interview. The hackers—a group calling itself Guardians of Peace—released a trove of embarrassing emails, film scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records.
Washington blamed Pyongyang for the hacking, a claim it denied—though it had strongly condemned the film, which features a fictional CIA plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong-Un. And in 2010, a computer virus called Stuxnet attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities, setting back the country’s atomic program. Although hackers of Russian, North Korean or Chinese origin are often cited, many believe the attack was orchestrated by the United States and Israel, but they have never acknowledged responsibility.
The loose-knit piracy collective Anonymous, arguably the most well-known hacking group, has targeted a number of organizations under its mantle of fighting injustices, including the Pentagon, the Church of Scientology, the Islamic State group and Mastercard.
Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, founded 10 years ago by Australian Julian Assange, specializes in the release of classified materials. In 2010, it published 251,000 classified cables from U.S. embassies around the world and thousands of military documents on Afghanistan.
Last year it published files and communications from the Democratic Party, damaging presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. U.S. intelligence officials said the release was part of a Russian plot to aid the eventual election victor Donald Trump. In March, the group released a large number of files and computer code from the CIA’s top-secret hacking operations, showing how the agency exploits vulnerabilities in popular computer and networking hardware and software to gather intelligence.
A similar election attack targeted the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron barely 24 hours before the final round of voting in April, when thousands of documents from his En Marche! (On the Move!) movement were dumped online. The campaign denounced the “massive and coordinated hacking attack,” calling it an attempt at “democratic destabilization, like that seen during the last presidential campaign in the United States.”
In January 2015, a group declaring support for I.S. jihadists hacked into the social media accounts of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), an embarrassing setback for Washington in its war against I.S. in Syria and Iraq. A black-and-white banner with the words “CyberCaliphate” and “I love you ISIS” replaced CENTCOM’s usual logo on Twitter and YouTube before the pages were suspended.
Two months later, a group calling itself the “Islamic State Hacking Division” published what they said were the names and addresses of 100 military personnel and urged supporters to kill them. It posted information about members of the air force, army and navy, including photos and ranks.
There have also been countless criminal attacks around the world, with hackings of online payment systems costing more than $300 million of losses for about a dozen top U.S. and European companies between 2005 and 2012. Major companies and media houses have also been targeted, including Yahoo!, which was targeted by hackers seeking personal data on millions of users in both 2013 and 2014.
In April 2015, France’s TV5 Monde television suffered a major hacking by self-proclaimed Islamic State militants, but an investigation later revealed that the hackers were Russian. Hackers managed to shut down transmissions for several hours and hijacked the channel’s website and social networks.