The Biggest Hacks and Breaches from 2014

IBM’s Security team has released cyber attack statistics for 2014. In the summary, 2014s biggest hacks so far have changed from previous years – focusing on malware affecting US retailers, 43% more retail data was stolen in 2014 than the previous year.

IBM said 61 million retail records were stolen over the last 12 months. Down from last year’s 73 million. Also noted, the number of daily attacks dropped from 4,200 to just over 3,000. Put together, it shows the typical breach in 2014 has become more destructive.

Below are 8 of 2014s Biggest Hacks So Far. Often, breaches are not made public until months after they occur. Historically, Black Friday has been one of the most active days for cyber attacks. That information is not anticipated until later in the year.


2014's Biggest Hacks So Far IBM ChartLast September more than 100 listings identified as exploits tricked customers into handing over their personal identification. First reported on the 17th in an iPhone listing, the attacks continued throughout the week.

The problem centered on Ebay’s feature of letting sellers place Javascript and Flash on their item page. Hackers used cross-server scripting exploits to spoof banking sites. Users fooled by the listings were redirected to pages asking them to link their bank accounts. Many of the listings were placed through hijacked accounts. Some sellers having used their accounts for years with massive feedback and regular shoppers. It gets worse, some sellers logged back into their accounts to find massive listing fees. Security researchers say that the Javascript/XSS attack had been part of the site since February.

Ebay had faced hacking problems earlier in 2014 as well. Also last February, surreptitious hackers broke into Ebay stealing logins, passwords, birth dates, email and physical addresses of users. Hackers made use of leaked Ebay employee data to access the network.

Ebay asked user’s to change their passwords in May, once they became aware. No financial data was reported lost. Though, hackers now know where Ebay user’s live and may focus on them, physically, in hopes of revealing more personal information offering fake deals and offers via mail and email.

Also, in July, hackers broke into Ebay subsidiary StubHub and defrauded nearly $1 million from the service.

Target a Target

data breachOriginally reported at the end of 2013, the Target hack was, perhaps, a precursor to the rise of 2014 retail attacks. Responsible for the loss of 40m financial records and 70m customer accounts, the cost of replacing credit and debit cards is roughly $400m alone. The hack occurred over November and December, in time for Black Friday. Over the past year, more has come to light regarding the notorious breach.

Malware introduced through third-party vendors point-of-sale machines hummed away during the holiday shopping season. Target was unaware of the hack until their customers data surfaced on a black market website.

Security research Brian Krebs reported that Fazio Mechanical, a heating and air contractor may have provided thieves the means to attack Target. The firm had previously succumbed to a phishing attack linked to the malware found on Target’s system.

Also read: Bitcoin Exchange Bitstamp Is Back Online with Multi-sig Security after Hack

AOL Email Spoofs

As many as 2% of AOL Mail accounts could have been compromised by spammers last April. The accounts were still used to send spoofed emails – a message that appears to be from a valid contact, but is not from the contact.

AOL notified affected users and has been working with law enforcement. The Twitter feed #aolhacked tracked the effect of the hack. The unauthorized access did not lead to a loss of financial data. This was not 2014s biggest hack, but respect for a 90s company making a headline in 2015.

UPS Malware Breach

The UPS Store was alerted by the US government that malware was targeting US retailers. Fifty-one compromised franchises in twenty-four states may have leaked information from January until August. Although UPS has not released a hard number for such a large time frame, no fraud has been attributed to this hack, yet.

Every UPS store affected by the malware was individually owned – separate from the corporate locations. These stores are responsible for their service contracts and were not part of the, larger, UPS network.

2014s Biggest Hacks Citadel
Citadel Malware


Staples Credit Card Harvesting

Between August and September malware, ran amok on Staple’s Point of Sale system. Over one million credit cards, verification codes, expiration dates and full names of cardholders escaped from the system. Staples have since offered identity protection services to customers shopping at affected locations.

The Staples attack drew the attention of security expert Brian Krebs. At the time, he was following the malware that hit Staples. Several banking sources had tipped him on a pattern of debit and credit fraud similar to the point-of-sale malware.

Home Depot

On September 8th, Home Depot confirmed a hack that compromised nearly 56 million credit cards and 53 million email addresses. Exploiting a flaw in the Windows Operating System, hackers pushed custom malware to self-checkout terminals. The software ran for five months, swiping customer information.

Hackers targeted the 7,500 checkout terminals because they were the easiest to identify in Home Depot’s database. The companies 70,000 registers, apparently, were obfuscated in some way. The Depot became aware of the breach when their customers credit card information began showing up on, the of stolen credit cards.

Estimates the breach will cost Home Depot upwards of $63m have not phased the home repair behemoth. This attack eclipses the Target breach earlier in the year where 40m customer credit card records were harvest. Home Depot shares closed the year up 18% and 4% over their sales goals. If they are worried, Home Depot customers are not showing it.

Also read: Tech is Charlie, Hackers are Charlie

JPMorgan Bailed Out of Their Systems

One of the largest breaches ever hit JP Morgan Chase last June, lasting until July. Certainly, this was 2014s biggest hack in the financial realm. Although the organization chose not to come forward until a security filing in October, some 76 million households and 7 million business accounts were compromised.

Security researchers close to the case suspect that somehow hackers obtained architecture diagrams of JP Morgans internal systems. Once equipped with a road map to the largest banking system in the country, the hackers cross-checked each system with know exploits looking for ways inside.

In a short time, the attackers obtained root privileges (the highest administrative level) in dozens of JP Morgan systems. It’s still unclear how hackers gained this level of access and researchers close to the case say it may take months to understand the intruders’ methods. Additionally, that it would take months to patch and renegotiate licensing deals to swap out software.

Although the initial disclosure of the breach sent chills down Wall Street’s spine and prompted an investigation by the FBI and Federal Reserve, no motive has been ascertained. In spite of compromising over 90 servers, no evidence exists to support any customer accounts lacked funds. Most perplexing, where did the funding for such an attack come from if there was no financial gain. For a time, law enforcement speculated the attack to be funded by a foreign government for information gathering purposes only.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon stated the financial giant will spend $250m a year on security. However, he cited employee retention as an issue. Competing banks regularly vet each other’s employees, including IT security experts and job changes are becoming an increasingly regular part of the post-American exceptionalism world.

Sony – 2014’s Biggest Hack?

The Sony hack is an on-going saga of finger-pointing and international drama possibly implicating an entire country. On November 24 the image “Hacked by #GOP” appeared on Sony’s screens, warning that Sony must obey their demands, or they would release Sony’s top secrets.

The attack started when phone and email services halted in Sony’s New York offices. As a precaution, the entertainment giant shut down Los Angeles locations. Effectively, the entire corporation came to a standstill. Demands reach Sony, claiming to be the Guardians of Peace, telling them to pull the release of The Interview. Over a week later, speculations began to surface that North Korea may be responsible for the attack; retaliation for the recent movie, The Interview, a bumbling comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jung Un cited.

Data released from the hack includes internal scathing reviews of Adam Sandler movies, passports and visas for cast and crew (including Jonah Hill and Angelina Jolie). Film budgets, scripts, confidential contracts, and username and passwords of Sony executives did not escape the attack.

On November 27th, Five Sony films, four that had not yet reached theaters, were dumped online. Brad Pitt’s Fury was downloaded more than 1 million times. Annie, Mr. Turner, Still Alice and To Write Love On Her Arms, all of which were not yet in theaters, were also part of the dump. Along with the pre-bonus salaries of 17 Sony executives and 6,000 current and former employees are leaked. Sony hired FBI security firm, SealMandiant, to investigate.

Researchers have linked malware used in the Sony attack to malware previously attributed to cyber attacks by North Korea.  In a response from President Obama, Sony decides to release the film Christmas Day. After hackers retaliate, threatening violence against the theaters showing the film, Sony releases the film online for download.

Images from Shutterstock, Dell SecureWorks, IBM, and Siliconangle.