2017: The Year of Cyber Attacks
By Namrata Gulati Sapra

Year 2017 could well be awarded the title of ‘The Year of Hacking Scandals & Data Leaks’.

The world of dark web suffered a major setback on a fateful day in the month of February this year. It was reported that 20% of websites on the hosting website, Freedom Hosting II, were taken off the internet, thanks to the hacker. (In 2011, Freedom Hosting I was hacked on the same ground, or so the hacker claims). The hacker reasoned that the websites on the dark web were hosts to child pornography. He also said that he had no intention to leak the data he had hacked since it contained images of child abuse. This wasn’t the last attack launched on dark web; a few months later, there surfaced a hacker who identified himself as Dhostpwned. The hacker claimed responsibility for having hacked Deep Hosting, another hosting website, thereby affecting as many as 91 websites. In the same month, Rasputin, the infamous Russian hacker, showed up once again. In December 2016, the hacker had gained notoriety by attempting to gain access to U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). This time, the Russian hacker found its victim in more than 60 universities, including the likes of Oxford, Cambridge and New York University. Even US federal government organizations, such as the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were made vulnerable by the attack. The hacker, researchers said, had come up with his own SQL injection scanner and used it to his advantage. The financially motivated criminal is believed to be selling access to these databases.

The year was not even half over, when the WannaCry ransomware attack hogged headlines. Touted as one of the largest cyber-attacks in history, WannaCry crippled 104. Life came to a standstill as innumerable computer systems, in countries such as India and Russia, shut down. The aforementioned countries were badly hit because they were predominantly using MS Windows XP, an Operating System more prone to risk. Other than Russia, which is believed to account for 60 percent of all the computers that were infected all over the globe, the attack wreaked havoc on UK. The hospitals in the country lost access to data concerning patients. Many other patients were turned away because of the same reason. The National Security Agency (NSA) of the USA was severely criticized for being responsible for compromising cyber security as the attack had made use of an exploit by the NSA.

The world was still reeling from the global cyber-attack when another once reared its ugly head in September. In a shocking incident, resumes of more than a hundred candidates who had applied with their resumes for a job at TigerSwan, a security firm in the US, their way into an Amazon Web Services Storage server that was both public and unlisted. Naturally, sensitive and private data of almost 9500 prospective employees thus became easily accessible at the mere click of a button. The list of cyber-attacks witnessed another addition when Equifax, a credit rating agency, was targeted by a hacker. The number of people affected by the data breach were mostly Americans. The figures have been pegged at several millions. What caused more commotion was the fact that the company took a much more time than it should have to reveal that the private data of its customers was at stake. The scandal eventually led to the resignation of Richard Smith, the chairman and the chief executive of Equifax.

If the hacking trends and statistics of 2017 are anything to go by, one can anticipate bigger potholes in the road ahead.

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