As we move into 2014, the tail end of 2013 has certainly been a busy period for hackers. Perhaps the Target hack, in which 40 million credit/debit card details were stolen, will go down as one of the largest and most damaging of 2013. But a raft of smaller attacks which followed Target illustrated just how every day hacking is.
One of the most common was the hacking of a server belonging to the BBC. A Russian hacker broke into the server and tried to sell access to others. This is quite a common trick among the hacking community and has been in use a long time. A hacker in Korea, for example, might want to hack a US bank and could launch the attack via or five or six compromised servers dotted around the world.
These servers can be used for all sorts of things, from launching attacks or as means for hackers to cover their digital tracks. Often the owners of the servers don’t even know their hardware has been compromised or is being used as a means to further some form of nefarious digital activity.
Bashar Al Assad and Skype
Another hack which almost crept under the radar was an attack on Skype’s Twitter accounts by the so called Syrian Electronic Army. This group has been around a while and supports the Syrian government and Bashar Al Assad. In the past they’ve hacked the New York Times and Twitter. They simply posted a number of statements which were quickly taken down.
Professional gamer James Varga – a direct victim of hackers
A really popular online game, League of Legends was also taken offline. The attacked seems to have been aimed at James Varga, a legendary professional online gamer. US and European servers were overloaded with data and crashed as were Asian servers. The hack ended with a prank with a call to police who were told that Varga had hostages in his house. Varga was cuffed and his house searched before police realised it was a hoax.
4.6 million phone numbers of Snapchat users were hacked
And finally 4.6 million phone numbers of Snapchat users were hacked and leaked. Snapchat is a photo messaging service that is rapidly growing in popularity. Snapchat vulnerabilities were highlighted several weeks ago and this time hackers actually exploited, rather than warned about the exploit in the app. Hackers downloaded usernames and phones numbers and posted them online.
Growing need for online identity protection
There are probably a few more hacks that have taken place but they just haven’t come into the light of day yet, and many never will because many organisations don’t want to publicize how vulnerable their systems are.
We’ve all heard read books or seen films in which fictional characters become persona non grata after their electronic presence is wiped out. It’s compelling drama, but in reality, we’re actually not far from this. Clearly, it isn’t going to happen to 99.9% of us, but hackers can certainly take big bites out of our digital lives, and in the process cause all sorts of problems.
So perhaps 2014 should be the year that we get proactive about protecting ourselves?