4 Major data breaches in 2020, and what can we learn from them

4 Major data breaches in 2020, and what can we learn from them

With the catastrophic economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have, understandably, been focusing their efforts on staying operational. However, in the midst of all the chaos, cybercriminals and state-sponsored attackers alike have been stepping up their game and taking advantage of an already highly vulnerable economy.

The past year has seen millions forced to work from home, with businesses given little or no time to prepare. This, among other things, has left them vulnerable to various attacks. While the incidents that make the headlines tend to involve large organizations, data breaches can and do target any business in any industry. Thus, smaller businesses can learn a lot from these high-profile breaches of 2020:

1. SolarWinds infiltrated by state-sponsored attackers

One of the biggest names in management software and managed services, SolarWinds was the target of a cyberespionage campaign unlike anything experienced before. The attackers, believed to be state-sponsored and likely based in Russia, breached SolarWinds to get access to US government agencies and numerous other organizations. Specifically, the attack used a series of novel exploits in SolarWinds’ leading IT management platform, Orion.

State-sponsored attacks don’t tend to directly go after high-profile targets like governments. Instead, they usually exploit vulnerabilities along the supply chain. That’s why every company that’s part of a crucial supply chain must adhere closely to regulations and maintain the best possible security standards.

2. Garmin forced to pay millions in ransomware attack

Last summer, technology company Garmin was the target of a highly successful campaign that resulted in the company paying an estimated $10 million to regain access to its data. The attack also forced them to shut down their data synchronization service and its aviation database, while also causing major disruption to its call centers and production lines in Asia.

It took five days for Garmin to start getting its systems back online after the attack, providing that no organization is safe from ransomware, no matter how large and well-protected. Moreover, the attack demonstrated that companies with a wide range of products and services tend to be popular targets, and the impact on customer operations are often the most severe.

3. Zoom suffers multiple attacks during the pandemic

Responding to the sudden and unprecedented flurry of stay-at-home orders starting in spring, millions of organizations around the world started relying on Zoom and similar tools to keep in touch with their remote workforces. Governments also started holding high-level meetings on the platform, quickly raising the attention of cybercriminals and state-sponsored attackers. In April, Zoom suffered its biggest breach when half a million account credentials were stolen and ended up for sale on the dark web.

While Zoom was quick to address its various privacy and security vulnerabilities in the face of enormous pressure from its rapidly growing user base, the incident serves as a warning to all that sudden periods of enormous demand are often met with an even greater increase in risk.

4. Twitter accounts taken over by Bitcoin scammers

Last summer, 130 high-profile Twitter accounts were hacked by an organized cybercriminal syndicate to promote a Bitcoin scam. By gaining access to Twitter’s administrative tools, they were able to alter accounts and post malicious tweets directly. While the perpetrators were later arrested and charged, the hack was one of the most severe ever experienced by a major social media platform.

It is believed that the attackers used social engineering tactics to exploit Twitter’s employees and have them unwittingly surrender confidential information. Moreover, although it took mere minutes for Twitter to remove the scam messages, it still resulted in more than $110,000 worth of bitcoins being deposited into the attackers’ cryptocurrency wallet. Thus, the incident was a perfect example of just how ubiquitous social engineering scams are, and how quickly they can evolve.

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