How to Prevent the Biggest Cyber Attacks in History

A cyber attack is when hackers use computers to steal information or cause damage. Cyberattacks can be done by criminal organizations, professional hackers, and state actors.

Some hackers want to steal intellectual property or other assets for financial gain. Others hack for fun or to warn others about vulnerabilities.

Know Your Risk

In the age of digital transformation, cyberattacks are more common than ever. Furthermore, while the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many financial sector trends (such as digitization, work-from-home arrangements, and the growth of new technologies), it also increased the vulnerability of those innovations to cyberattacks.

A successful attack can wreak havoc by disrupting business operations, threatening public safety, and undermining confidence in the system. Furthermore, these attacks are not just from criminals. Nation-state actors and hackers increasingly threaten to undermine the world’s financial stability and economic well-being.

Hackers can steal sensitive data through phishing, malware, bots, and other methods. For example, hackers can use a “logic bomb” to insert malicious code into programs that execute when specific events occur. They may also put themselves between a victim device and the router and eavesdrop on routed information or change data packets.

The biggest cyber attacks in history country corrupt the integrity of data. Examples include the Carbanak cyberattack that stole $1 billion from banks in more than 38 countries and the Danish state railways attack that shut down trains for several hours. More disturbing still are incidents that corrupt data used in critical infrastructure and manufacturing systems, which can have far more significant consequences than financial losses.

Invest in Security

The world is increasingly interconnected, and cyber risk threatens everyone. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in a single country to disrupt other sectors—for example, an attack on a power grid could cut off electricity for millions of people. Nonstate actors have more technical prowess and financial resources than ever before to carry out disruptive attacks, but a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy can help mitigate these threats.

Despite growing attention to greater security, many organizations still need to be protected. Some of these weaknesses are due to the lack of security training, while others stem from the fragmented nature of the threat landscape. For example, different communities—financial supervisors focusing on resilience, diplomats concentrating on the norms of state behavior, and national security agencies focused on deterring malicious activity—are tackling the challenge through different lenses, making it hard to integrate their efforts (Saxena & Gayathri, 2022).

One of the biggest problems is the need for more security for industrial control systems, which control processes in manufacturing and other industries. These systems use serial communication technology—which Edry likens to the beeps and squeals of old-style Internet dial-up connections—and many were built before cyber security became a priority. As a result, an attack on such systems can lead to physical damage or business interruption, and these threats are rising.

Train Your Staff

Every day, the federal government fends off tens of thousands of cyberattacks. These range from phishing emails aimed at tricking an unassuming employee to sophisticated attacks targeting the nation’s most precious data assets. Furthermore, as more information goes digital, the federal government presents a treasure trove for hackers.

Even a single hack can devastate businesses, individuals, clients, and customers. In the case of ransomware, for instance, attackers encrypt a device’s essential files and demand payment in exchange for the decryption key. The WannaCry attack cost hospitals in the U.K. more than $111 million, while an attack on meat retailer JBS caused a nationwide shortage of the product. Colonial Pipeline paid a $5 million ransom to restore service after an attack.

The most damaging cyberattacks are those that take advantage of vulnerabilities in the operating system or applications. Attackers can exploit these vulnerabilities to access restricted resources, make configuration changes or install malware. Many of these attacks are carried out by malicious insiders with privileged access to an organization’s systems.

Another typical attack is a man-in-the-middle (MiTM) hack, in which an attacker intercepts online messages between two parties. They can then read, copy and manipulate the message before sending it to the unsuspecting recipient. Attackers can also use this technique to intercept and monetize sensitive personal information, such as login credentials and transaction details.

Have Backups

Backing up data is a best practice and a crucial part of any cyber attack prevention strategy. However, backups are not foolproof. Even when your organization follows the general 3-2-1 rule, which states that you have three copies of your system on two different media and one stored offsite, there is still a risk that backup files could be compromised.

Suppose cybercriminals can access the systems administrator credentials or bypass two-factor authentication (see this Sophos Naked Security article for more on how Russian hackers did this). In that case, they can use these to save backup data to their cloud accounts rather than to the victim’s original account. That is why limiting the number of people accessing backup data is crucial. It can also help encrypt backups, making them difficult for attackers to read and use.

While implementing multi-layer security protection is the most effective way to mitigate cyber attacks, more is needed. Ransomware, for example, encrypts a victim’s files and demands payment for their decryption code. Furthermore, while 81% of victims continue to pay the ransom, there are ways to prevent this, like focusing on adequate recovery preparation and ensuring alignment between the backup and cybersecurity teams for a unified incident response playbook.


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