29.04.2022 11:30

A look into Recent Cyber-attacks and The Lessons We Learned

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Let’s go over the year recent as 2019 which has been one of the busiest duration for hackers with an unprecedented 300% increase in attack traffic. Their latest fancy seems to be IoT devices that include the number of software, wireless sensors, actuators, computers, etc., which can be embedded into handheld devices, medical equipment, environmental sensors, industrial apparatus so on, and so forth.

Most of these major cyberattacks were successful in targeting the seemingly impenetrable systems of governments, hospitals, academic institutes, and businesses across the world. The alarming number of 7.9 billion data breach cases were reported in 2019 with an emphasized aim in several economic sectors.

Before we analyze the possible lessons we learned, let us review some of the biggest cyberattacks that the year unfortunately witnessed.

American Medical Collection Agency – May/2019 (25 million compromised records)

AMCA data breach of nearly 25 million patients’ information is one of the biggest cybersecurity incidents of 2019. Although the massive breach was revealed in May, the US Securities and Exchange Commission disclosed that the health debt collector AMCA’s records remained wide-open by hackers from August 2018 to March 2019.

Two of the most impacted clients of AMCA, LabCorp reported the breach of 7.7 million patients records, while Quest Diagnostics bore the compromising of 12 million records. Other affected parties included BioReference, Austin Pathology, Clinical Pathology Laboratories, CBLPath, Penobscot Community Health Center, etc.

The compromised information comprised of names, phone numbers, d.o.bs, residential addresses, medical history, and more. In consequence, The AMCA parent company had to file bankruptcy and are now facing many lawsuits.

Capital One – July/2019 (106 million compromised records)

Capital One, a renowned giant in banking and credit card world made it to the news headlines in July 2019 for the worst possible reasons. Richard D. Fairbank, chairman, and CEO of Capital One admitted to the breach of 106 million customers’ information.

The Seattle-based hacker, Paige A. Thompson allegedly worked for Amazon, gained unauthorized access to the personal information of credit card customers. The data included people’ Social Security numbers, credit scores, banking transactions and balances, and residential addresses.

Following the cyberattack Capital One had federal law enforcement capture the hacker, who is now facing prison time and $250,000 fine. They also assured costumers of complete data recovery and made identity protection and credit monitoring available for all stakeholders.

First American – May/2019 (885 million compromised records)

First American – the U.S. based largest financial services company faced the second-biggest data breach in the history of cyberattacks.  Second only to Yahoo!’s 2013 hack that exposed nearly 3 billion accounts, First American suffered the breach of almost 900 million records.

The data leak involved hundreds of millions of files of bank account numbers and statements, wire transaction receipts, mortgage documents, tax records, driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, and other personal information dating far back to 2003.

This massive data breach was unusually reported by a real estate developer, Ben Shoval instead of the usual likelihood of security expert. Upon realizing that by mere single-digit alteration in the URL, he could access the company’s highly sensitive data, Ben Shoval warned the relevant authorities within First American to no avail.

In the light of the graveness of the situation, he then went on to report it to Brian Krebs, an investigative journalist at KrebsOnSecurity who broke the story to the world.

Citrix Systems, Inc. – March/2019 (records compromised: unknown)

Although the number of people who suffered the data breach at Citrix is unknown, the size of its dealings points towards substantial amounts of compromised customer data. The American-based multinational software company, that provides services to 400,000 companies worldwide fell victim to one of the most lethal cyberattacks in its history.

Citrix believes that the hacker employed a technique called password spraying which obtains unauthorized access by scanning systems and infiltrating them through weak passwords. The hacker retained intermittent access for six months from October 2018 to March 2019.

The ongoing investigations by FBI and forensic examiners are still reluctant to disclose the true extent of the attack which has impacted the employees, dependents, and beneficiaries alike.

Facebook – April to May/2019, (419 to 540 million compromised records)

Facebook is always in the news for one data security incident or another. The major data breach came when the establishment was still reeling from the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal of misusing users’ personal data for political manipulation.

Facebook made it to the news in April 2019 when 540 million records were found on Amazon’s cloud computing servers. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, confirmed the data breach but claimed the plain-text publication to be accidental.

Despite multiple assurances and announcements of improved security measures from Facebook, in September 2019 419 million recordsincluding account information and phone numbers were found to be available in plain sight.

Which made people vulnerable to SIM-swapping attacks – tricking people into transferring information to hackers – through smartphones.

Take Away

Every new cyberattack should not be a reminder to tighten the security regulations around the organization. The importance of reliable defense mechanisms, timely upgrades, and security reinforcements against malicious cybercriminals should remain the top priority at all times.

The attentive and informed approach requires comprehensive training programs. That can help people in general and employees in particular to recognize potential threats. By recognizing and halting the phishing scams, cybercriminal tactics, ransomware attacks, etc., at once can minimize the damage significantly.

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