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The biggest cyber hacks of 2021

·4 min read

2021 headlined some pretty terrible and sensitive cyber attacks, breaches and data leaks that exposed the personal information of millions of people online, and some companies. These hacks were launched by cybercriminals who knew what they were after.

More so, the Covid-19 pandemic made many companies move deeper online, giving hackers the avenue to get more creative and use sophisticated tools to perpetuate their villainous acts. Global cyber attacks increased by 29%, as hackers continue to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic and the huge shift to remote work.

Sadly, companies in the tech industry, food industry, insurance industry, among others were the most targeted.

What are the experts saying about hacks?

Ransomware is the top malware that denies users and system administrators access to files or entire networks. Once the malware infects systems, threat actors will send a ransom note typically demanding payment in Bitcoin.

With hacks increasing for many companies globally and 68% of business leaders feeling that their cybersecurity risks are increasing, according to Accenture, we really have to wonder what precisely experts are saying about these distasteful hacks.

For one, when DeFi platform Poly Network was hacked in August and more than $600 million was stolen, John Wu, president of Ava Labs, a team supporting development of DeFi applications on the Avalanche blockchain, said that the significant amount of funds stolen demonstrates that investors must be vigilant and cautious when allocating to this nascent space. Although nearly half of the money was returned, the Poly Network hack is one of the largest DeFi hacks to date.

Two months after the sophisticated and widespread hack, SolarWinds breached hundreds of companies and several government agencies. JD Henry, a regional advisor to the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said that hacks would continue to happen, adding they were growing and attackers were getting better than most defenders.

Furthermore, Peter Van Valkenburgh, Director of Research at Washington-based digital currency advocacy group Coin Center, said security breaches were a reminder of the vulnerabilities of cryptocurrency technologies. He further stressed that every hack was also an opportunity to learn and grow resilient. So, looking closely, what were the biggest hacks in 2021?

Top five biggest hacks in 2021

With companies finding themselves at the mercy of hackers, let’s find out the top five biggest hacks of this year that made heads turn.

1.The Colonial Pipeline Attack: This was the most significant cyberattack of 2021. In May, hackers affiliated with the ransomware gang DarkSide got into the network of Colonial Pipeline, one of America’s largest oil and gas companies. By temporarily halting the pipeline’s operations, the attack spurred a short-lived energy crisis throughout the Southeast. The group stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data, threatening to release it to the internet unless a ransom was paid.

2. Twitch Data Dump: On October 6 2021, an anonymous leaker posted a 125GB cache of Twitch’s data to 4chan as a torrent. The leak also included the company’s source code, internal company documents, salaries and other personal information of some of the platform’s biggest stars and channel operators. The hacker claimed to have carried it out to foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space.

3. JBS Foods Hack: JBS, a Brazilian meat processor that serves as America’s largest source for beef and pork, discovered that hackers affiliated with the ransomware gang REvil successfully compromised its networks on May 30. On June 10, JSB paid the $11 million ransom demand after consulting with cybersecurity experts. This massive payment in Bitcoin is one of the largest ransomware payments of all time.

4. CNA’s $40 Million Ransom: CNA, one of America’s largest insurance companies, was attacked by a ransomware group that called itself ‘Phoenix’, successfully grabbing large amounts of its data. CNA paid their data-captors a whopping $40 million – a figure that sets the record for publicly known payments in these scenarios.

5. Kaseya VSA ransomware attack: On July 2 2021, a number of managed service providers and their customers became victims of a ransomware attack perpetrated by the REvil group, causing widespread downtime for more than 1,000 companies. Fortunately, no ransom was paid and Kaseya was able to restore the IT infrastructure of its clients.

In conclusion, cybersecurity is a global problem with both small and large companies suffering similar fates. To address this, companies need to take cybersecurity seriously and invest in it with adequate resources.

Furthermore, cybersecurity experts need to be more highly educated to tackle the menace of rising ransomware attacks. When more organisations begin to see cybersecurity as a central point to data protection, these threats will begin to wane.