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5 Shocking Cyber Attacks That Prove Just How Close to Home Cybersecurity Gets

Cybersecurity just got personal.

Well, actually, it’s been pretty personal all along! Despite the fact that everyday people don’t think a lot about cybersecurity in their daily lives all that much. However, with technology having been an integral part of our daily lives for quite some time now, it’s past time we all start considering it. We’ve already written up some tips on how anyone can increase their personal cybersecurity here. Now, we also wanted to give some real-life examples of how larger cyberattacks can impact our lives.

Big data breaches are more common than ever today. But it can be hard to really understand the person-to-person impact when all we see are flashy headlines. That’s why we wanted to go a little deeper. Here are five examples of cyber attacks to help contextualize the value of cybersecurity in our everyday lives.

Baltimore Public Schools Attack

Date: November 2020
Impact: 115,000 students
Source

In terms of numbers, this particular attack may not have made waves like some of the ones we’ll discuss below. What’s so shocking about this example is how directly it impacted families across the Baltimore area. Experts first detected the ransomware attack on November 24th, and it ultimately led to all schools closing for three days. Furthermore, students and faculty were unable to use any Windows-based devices. (Most students were still able to access school-linked Google accounts through their Chromebooks, however.)

Experts believe that the increase in remote learning is linked to an increase in attacks like this. With everything online, the ability to access documents, secure data, and other digital tools is more important than ever. Therefore, ransomware attacks like this all the more impactful.

Three days without school may not sound like the worst thing in the world, but it is a salient example of how important cybersecurity will continue to be in our lives.

Adult Friend Finder 

Date: October 2016
Impact: 412.2 million accounts
Source

If you’re not familiar with this company, you may not understand why this particular data breach was quite so sensitive. The Friend Finder Network encompasses various adult sites including Adult Friend Finder, Cans.com, iCams.com, Penthouse.com, and Stripshow.com. This particular breach of the network resulted in 20 years worth of stolen data across six databases. The information shared included names, email addresses, and some passwords.

This data breach is particularly interesting due to the content of the websites in question. No matter what platform is breached, losing one password can have a ripple effect across a number of other accounts. If, like many people, someone is using all the same password for multiple sites. (Note to self: don’t use the same password for your bank account as you do for adult services.)

Additionally, the sensitive nature of the Friend Finder Network left millions of people at risk of being blackmailed or exploited. However you want to spend your time on the internet, don’t forget that this could happen to you! Without the right precuations, that is. Thankfully, we have some tips to help you out with that.

SolarWinds

Date: December 2020
Impact: Ongoing
Source

You may not recognize the company Solar Winds, but you will definitely recognize the organizations this breach impacted: the US federal government and a number of Fortune 500 companies. This breach is one of the most significant and recent cyberattacks in the US and has been formally linked to Russia.

The full scope of this breach is still unknown. However, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has called it a “grave risk” to both the government and private sector. Although President Trump underplayed the seriousness of this ongoing breach, Senator Romney called this lack of response “extraordinary” and went on to say that, “[The attackers] had the capacity to show that our defense is extraordinarily inadequate; that our cyber warfare readiness is extraordinarily weak.”

Although the ramifications of this event are still unfolding, it is without a doubt one of the most significant cyberattacks in recent history given its high-security nature.

Yahoo

Date: 2013/2014
Impact: 3 billion user accounts
Source

This is, quite literally, the largest data breach in history. The breach took place in 2014 but Yahoo only publicly announced it in November 2016. According to Yahoo, the attackers were “state-sponsored actors” and they compromised names, email addresses, birth dates, and phone numbers of half a billion users.

Only a month after they disclosed this initial breach, Yahoo shared that in 2013 a different attacker had compromised that same information in addition to user’s security question answers from 1 billion accounts. In October of 2017, Yahoo came forward estimating that the true scope of the attack actually included 3 billion user accounts.

This breach literally affected billions of users, but another interesting point to make here is an economic one. At the time of these disclosures, Verizon was in the midst of acquiring Yahoo; these issues reportedly lowered the acquisition price by $350 million. (Good for Verizon, not so good for Yahoo.) That may not be so “close to home” but it is absolutely shocking.

First American Financial Corp.

Date: May 2019
Impact: 885 Million
Source

The First American Financial breach, though not quite as large as some of the above, is particularly disturbing due to the data itself. The digitized records included bank account numbers, tax records, and even Social Security numbers. This event is a sobering reminder that cybersecurity is a crucial factor in protecting our data as private citizens. All it took was a simple “design defect” to cause the breach. Though the company immediately blocked external data access, its impact was still staggering.

All of these cyber attacks are examples of how deeply intertwined cybersecurity really is in our everyday lives whether it be as citizens, students, or “friend finders.”