In 1986, specialists in the then-nascent field of information security discovered what is considered to have been the first example of widespread malware. The Brain virus targeted the Microsoft Disk Operating System (DOS), and it featured a rather sophisticated method of infection. The early sophistication of the Brain virus has not been lost over the decades; since 2010, information security researchers have noticed that data breaches and cyber attacks are becoming more complex, destructive, and dangerous. Each year seems to bring about even more spectacular incidents.
Here’s a list of the most damaging cyber attacks of 2019.
Ransomware Attacks on Municipal Governments
After the deep disruption caused by the WannaCry ransomware attacks of 2017, it is worrisome to learn that cities such as Atlanta and Baltimore were unable to cope with such incidents in 2019. Ransomware attacks encrypt all files in targeted directories, effectively locking users out unless a ransom payment is made in cryptocurrency. Millions of dollars were lost to these attacks, but not all victims paid ransom; some decided to rebuild their networks from scratch and with reliable data backup systems.
The Quest Diagnostics Data Breach
This national laboratory, which handles thousands of clinical testing and employment screening procedures each day, informed the public that nearly 12 million patient records were compromised during a period that started in August 2018 until the hack was finally detected in March 2019. Although specifics of how the networks were breached have not been disclosed, the attack involved a third-party debt collection agency, and the records stolen included credit card information.
The Microsoft Visual Studio Hack
Visual Studio is a video game development tool that tech giant Microsoft provides to programmers, compilers, and testers. In 2019, a Chinese cybercrime organization exploited a Visual Studio vulnerability, thus allowing hackers to find a backdoor to the software. The next step taken by the Barium hacking outfit was to plant malware in certain video game titles that were downloaded and installed in more than 90,000 machines. Infosec researchers are concerned that these types of attacks, which target the supply chain of online software distribution, could become more common in the near future.