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Cybersecurity

Biggest Cyberattacks of 2021

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2021 came, and with it came the wave of emerging technologies in various sectors, be it medical, sustainability, blockchain technology, and much more. And while 2021 wasn’t as intense as its predecessor, the year still brought with it some challenges that were quite an ordeal to overcome, or even avoid, for that matter. With this year came some of the most extensive cybersecurity infiltrations up to date. So, let’s guide you through some of the biggest cyberattacks of 2021.

A cyber breach is the most effective way for hackers to obtain what they seek by accessing an organization’s networks by targeting information systems’ infrastructures, computer networks, or personal computer devices. This occurs by employing diversified types of cybersecurity attacks to steal, change, or even damage data or information systems.

Cyber breaches on some major global organizations have left companies and governmental entities questioning their ability to safeguard their cybersecurity infrastructure and protect their consumers’ and employees’ data.

Throughout 2021, cybercriminals worldwide made it their mission to exploit any security weakness of any organization for their vendetta, be it for cryptocurrency ransoms, or to access and obtain data – the most precious asset of our time.

According to Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) research, the accumulative number of cyber breaches through September 30, 2021, already surpassed that of 2020 by 17 percent, “with 1,291 breaches in 2021 compared to 1,108 breaches in 2020,” according to Security Magazine.

While a cyber security breach is mainly directed at organizations hackers are targeting, and the damage is not confined within the borders of the company or agency, consumers are also affected given their data is being accessed and used as collateral for cybercriminals to get what they want.

So, let’s dive right into 2021’s recent cyber security breaches.

Kaseya

In July, a ransomware group that goes by the name REvil gang caused one of the most memorable cyber heists of all time. By manipulating a flaw in Kaseya’s on-premises virtual storage appliance (VSA), remote monitoring, and management tool to encrypt data and seek payment from almost 1,500 of Kaseya’s end-user customers.

The cyber security breach weaponized REvil with the needed means to take advantage of the VSA’s basic efficacy to deploy ransomware to customers. The breach paralyzed more than 36,000 managed service providers (MSPs), with no access to the company’s VSA product for almost ten days.

As for REvil, the cybercriminal group demanded the heftiest ransom in the history of cyber-attacks. On July 4, the group asked for $70 million to deliver the universal decryptor key for all the victims exposed to the cyber security breach.

However, Kaseya never ended up paying the ransom money and nineteen days after the breach, it gained access to the key, which in return – with the help of Emsisoft – helped it in unlocking customers’ ransomed files.

Acer

In March, the same group responsible for the Kaseya breach claimed that it had also broken into Acer’s servers and accessed unencrypted data. On their official site, the infamous group publicized alleged images from its financial sheets, bank balances, and bank communications.

On March 14, REvil communicated with Acer, stating that it is willing to offer the giant a 20 percent discount if PC titan finalized the ransom payment by March 17. In parallel, the group’s affiliates revealed that they are willing to deliver a decryptor, a vulnerability report, and delete the stolen files.

After not receiving an answer from the Taiwanese giant, REvil demanded a $50 million ransom on March 19.

The Colonial Pipeline Attack

In May, the U.S. suffered from one of the most damaging cyberattacks to date. Deemed the biggest cyberattack of 2021, the colonial pipeline infiltration shut down a 5,500-mile natural gas pipeline – of one of America’s largest oil and gas companies – for five days. The infiltrators? A ransomware group known as, DarkSide.

Darkside managed to gain access into the Colonial Pipeline networks, resulting in more than 10,000 gas stations across Southeastern America running out of fuel. Following the breach’s discovery, Darkside publicly threatened to expose almost 100 gigabytes of data.

The organization ended up paying a $4.4 million ransom on May 8, hoping the money would reinstate operations for its pipeline as soon as possible. While the ransom was already paid before restoring functions, federal officials managed to retreat most of the money.

“The Colonial Pipeline attack made such an impact because the pipeline is an important part of the national critical infrastructure system. Taking the system down disrupted gas suppliers all along the East Coast of the United States, causing chaos and panic,” Touro College Illinois Cybersecurity Program Director Joe Giordano said in a statement.

CAN Financial

Chicago-based insurance company, CNA Financial, was exposed to a cyber breach in March of 2021, where thousands of employees, contractors, and policymakers’ information got exposed.

The breach directly impacted more than 75,000 personas: revealing names, private identification, and social security numbers.

The cyber security breach left behind a disruption in CAN’s network, impacting significant systems, as well as corporate email. In parallel, it flatlined the functionality of the company’s site, decreasing it to a static display.

According to CAN’s statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), there was a high chance the company’s insurance policy might not cover the damage created by the attack.

In the end, the insurance mogul ended up paying the infiltrators a $40 million ransom by the end of March, only two weeks after a mass of CAN data was obtained and company officials could not access their network, according to Bloomberg.

Despite initially planning to disregard the cybercriminals’ demands while it pursues alternatives to re-obtain the stolen data, eventually CAN succumbed and began negotiations with the hackers, a move that placed it in some of the biggest cyberattacks of 2021.

The cyberattacks of 2021 have left businesses and governments questioning the sustainability of their cybersecurity infrastructures. Cybersecurity threats are perceived as the ever-growing enemy, exposing national and public security, and economic challenges to grave hazards.

As the world further intertwines through technology, people and communities from all around the globe connect, socialize and organize themselves through cyberspace. Cyber security breaches are subjecting organizations and governments to tremendous pressures to safeguard their data, with many establishments and federal agencies aiming to seek out the threat before it occurs.

Cybersecurity

Australia to ‘fight back’ against hostile states in cyber – minister

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Australia and Britain will “fight back” against cyber attacks from China, Russia, and Iran, defense minister Peter Dutton said ahead of consultations with Britain in Sydney.

Australia’s defense and foreign affairs ministers will meet with Britain’s defense secretary Ben Wallace and foreign secretary Liz Truss on Friday for the annual Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN).

Australia and Britain would coordinate cyber sanction regimes to increase deterrence, raising the costs for hostile state activity in cyberspace, said foreign affairs minister Marise Payne, after signing an agreement on Thursday with Truss.

“Australia is committed to working with partners such as the UK to challenge malign actors who use technology to undermine freedom and democracy,” Payne said in a statement.

Dutton said Friday’s meeting would have a big focus on cyber.

“Both the UK and Australia get regular attacks from Russia and from China, Iran and other countries,” he said on radio, adding they would “fight back”.

Discussions will also identify areas where Australia and the Britain can work together in the Indo-Pacific region, and Australia’s nuclear submarine program.

The new Aukus defence alliance with Britain and the United States, which last year prompted Australia to cancel a contract for a conventional French submarine in favour of a nuclear submarine prpgram supported by the United States and Britain, was crucial for Australia, he said.

“They are big countries and they have big military machines and are important allies and friends for us as a smaller country of only 25 million people if we are going to deter countries from aggressive behaviour,” he said.


SYDNEY (Reuters)

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Cybersecurity

China drafts rules on security reviews for apps influencing public opinion

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China’s cyber regulatory body issued on Wednesday draft rules governing mobile apps, including a requirement for security reviews of apps whose functions could influence public opinion.

The proposed regulations are part of a campaign run by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) over the past year to increase oversight of the country’s tech companies.

The public has been invited to give feedback on the draft rules by Jan. 20.

The proposals will require application providers to carry out a security assessment before launching “new technologies, new applications, and new functions” capable of influencing opinion or mobilising the public.

The CAC did not specify any specific apps or outline the security assessment process other than to say it should be carried out in accordance with national regulations.

The proposed rules would apply to “text, picture, voice, video and other information production”, as well as instant messaging, news dissemination, forum communities, livestreaming, and e-commerce, the regulator said.

The regulator added that mobile app providers must not conduct activities that endanger national security, or force users to share non-essential personal information.

News apps must obtain licenses granting permission to publish news, it said.

Over the past year, Chinese authorities have tightened regulations across a number of industries, ranging from gaming to real estate to education.

The CAC has led a number of initiatives targeting the country’s tech sector.

On Tuesday, CAC announced it would implement two new rules. One rule requires platform companies with over 1 million users to undergo security assessments before listing overseas, which would take effect in February. The other rule governs companies’ use of recommendation algorithms, which would take effect in March.


SHANGHAI (Reuters)

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Cybersecurity

China to order cybersecurity reviews for some firms seeking overseas listings

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China said on Tuesday it would put in force new rules that will boost oversight over how its platform companies make plans to list abroad or use recommendation algorithms, in moves set to tighten Beijing’s grip over its sprawling technology sector.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it would from Feb. 15 implement new rules that require platform companies with data for more than 1 million users to undergo a security review before listing their shares overseas.

In a separate statement, the CAC also said it would implement new rules governing the use of algorithm recommendation technology from March 1, requiring companies to give users the right to switch off the service and increasing oversight of news providers that use such technology to disseminate information.

Both sets of rules were proposed last year and are expected to potentially impact a large swathe of companies, such as TikTok owner ByteDance, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and many more smaller players.

ByteDance and Alibaba did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for a comment.

The CAC move comes amid a slew of regulatory changes in China over the past year that have dampened the appetite of firms to list overseas but bankers hope the new rules will provide more clarity in 2022.

The CAC did not specify whether the rules will apply to companies seeking listings in Hong Kong. But lawyers and bankers said based on its wording it appeared that Chinese companies with more than 1 million users seeking to list in the city would not be required to seek the cybersecurity review.

“Hong Kong is being treated as part of China, offshore though not foreign market, and this paves the way for more deals to return to Hong Kong,” one investment banker at a Western institution told Reuters, asking not be named as he was not permitted to speak to the media.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index fell 0.36% and the city’s tech index lost 1.44%.

Shares in Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, the operator of the Hong Kong stock exchange, were last down 1.9%. They fell as much as 2.4% following the announcement.

“If this is not retrospective then it would only affect listing aspirants and not companies already listed. Having said that, companies in the latter camp already have a lot on their minds,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at investment adviser United First Partners in Singapore.

The rules published on Tuesday did not specify whether the planned changes would be retrospective.

NARROWED SCOPE

The CAC first proposed the cybersecurity reviews in July https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-widens-clampdown-overseas-listings-with-pre-ipo-review-firms-with-large-2021-07-10, saying they would put a focus on the risks of data being affected, controlled or manipulated by foreign governments after overseas listings.

Alex Roberts, who tracks data policy at law firm Linklaters in Shanghai, said the new rules appeared to have shrunk the scope of the companies likely to be affected by the changes, as compared to the proposal made in July.

“The most significant change in these cybersecurity review measures seems to be the narrowing of the review’s application to only critical information providers, data processors that may impact national security, or platform operators holding over 1 million individuals’ personal data,” said Roberts, but he added the rules still do not provide ample specificity as to what types of companies will be affected.

“This ambiguity will be a real concern for successful multi-channel businesses in China’s digital economy given the current uncertainty of the review process.”

The CAC changes come after a slew of recent moves by Chinese authorities to boost oversight over Chinese companies’ offshore listings.

China’s state planner said last week it would demand regulatory clearance https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-tightens-scrutiny-offshore-listings-sectors-off-limits-foreign-investment-2021-12-27 for overseas Chinese listings in sensitive sectors such as internet news and publishing.

Separately, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said on Dec. 24 it would require companies wishing to list overseas to submit filings to the agency first for registration, under a system that also involves close coordination among various regulatory bodies.


SHANGHAI (Reuters)

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