Top 15 Biggest Hacker Plots
Some cybercriminals simply create a virus and release it. Others work together to come up with malicious plots, generally with a certain victim and goal in mind. Here are ten of the biggest hacker plots that took place over the last few decades.
1) The Phonemasters (1994)
Nowadays, most hacking incidents occur through computers. In 1994, hacking was common over the phone. One of the biggest hacker attacks was conducted by a group called the Phonemasters, which hacked into private conversations to gain credit card details and private information. At one point, the group even hacked into the White House.
2) The Melissa Virus (1999)
The Melissa Virus is one of the first major computer viruses to be transferred through email. Created by programmer David L. Smith, it was delivered in the form of an attachment. When someone opened the attachment, the email would automatically forward to the first 50 contacts in their address book.
3) Project Rivolta (2000)
Hacker Michael Calce (who is referenced in our "Top 20 Hackers" section), is responsible for one of the biggest hacking schemes of all time: Project Rivolta. He launched a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks which shut down the servers of major companies like Yahoo, Amazon and Dell.
4) Operation Get Rich (2005)
Albert Gonzalez (who is mentioned earlier) was the mastermind behind "Operation Get Rich," a hacking scheme that aimed to obtain the credit card information of customers at big retailers. Over millions of accounts were compromised, with all of the information being sold on the dark web.
5) Operation Shady RAT (2006)
This name is used to label the series of attacks against organizations located across 14 different countries. The motivation in this operation was purely information -- the goal was to access sensitive government information. While it's unclear who was behind the attack, many people believe it originated in China.
6) Estonia DDoS (2007)
The Estonia hacking incident is a good example of what happens when hackers leverage their abilities for espionage purposes. Over the course of three weeks, several Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks hit government servers across Estonia. Many people suspect that a Russian hacking group was behind the attack due to tensions between the two countries.
7) Conficker Virus (2008)
This malware wreaked havoc in 2008 by infecting millions of devices located across the world. While it's unclear who started it, the malicious nature of the virus leads many to suspect that a group was behind the attack. After infecting a system, Conficker would attack that system to other networks it had compromised, creating a growing network.
8) The Epsilon Hack (2011)
This hacking attack targeted Epsilon, the world's largest email marketing firm. However, the firm itself wasn't the only victim -- since it ran campaigns for many brands (including JP Morgan Chase), companies across the world were affected. The hack was the result of a spear phishing attack, which involves malware being spread through email.
9) The Oil Attack (2012)
Saudi Aramco, an oil company responsible for 10% of the world's entire oil supply, was impacted by a massive hacking attack in 2012. After their servers were compromised, the company had to manage its worldwide distribution by hand. Saudi Aramco was also faced with a massive ransom request of over $50 million.
10) Snowden Leaks (2013)
The Snowden scandal is arguably one of the most famous cybersecurity breaches known across the world. The scandal revolves around former CIA employee Edward Snowden, who revealed classified NSA information to journalists.
11) OPM Breach (2015)
In June 2015, the records of over 20 million Americans were stolen from the United States Office of Personnel Management. This included highly personal information such as social security numbers, addresses and fingerprints.
12) WannaCry (2017)
This ransomware was aptly named, considering that it likely made its victims "want to cry." It was capable of replicating and distributing itself across several personal computer networks. When activated, it would force a computer to shut down -- the ransomware gang behind it would then demand money in exchange for fixing the network.
13) The Netflix Leak (2017)
This specific plot stars the worldwide streaming service, Netflix, and a group of hackers that went by the name "The Dark Overlord." This ransomware gang stole episodes of the hit series, "Orange is the New Black," then threatened to release them if they weren't paid a ransom.
14) Taiwanese Independence (2020)
This hacking plot, which was executed by the group Anonymous, had political motivations. The group hacked into the United Nations website and created an entire page for Taiwan, complete with a flag advocating for Taiwanese independence.
15) COVID-19 Revenge (2021)
In February 2021, following the worldwide spread of COVID-19, hackers compromised an events website and posted a threat to the Chinese consulate in Auckland, New Zealand. The threat was later determined to be racially motivated and connected to racist associations between China and COVID-19.