The Silver Lining In Your Cloud TM

The 7 Most Sensational Breaches Of 2016

The biggest hacks, data exposures, and thefts that left companies and government entities reeling.



IRS refund fraud has been on the rise in recent years, so it was no big surprise that just as the tax season got into full swing this year the IRS announced an attack it experienced that put its anti-fraud measures into question. The agency reported that criminals had compromised its e-fil PIN reset system and managed to get their hands on more than 101,000 of these PINs in the hopes of taking over taxpayers’ accounts and filing fraudulent returns.


While 2016 seems to have seen a drop-off in the mega breaches of the last several years, Yahoo managed to satisfy the schadenfreude quotient with the announcement of a massive breach that impacted over 500 million user account credentials. The cause of the breach is still anyone’s guess, though we do know that its origins were positively ancient for a newly announced exposure, occurring way back in 2014. Yahoo is already facing 23 class action lawsuits over the breach.

DNC Hack

Perhaps one of the most impactful breaches of the decade – the compromise of the Democratic National Committee email system and the subsequent data dump by WikiLeaks – had far-ranging political ramifications. Whether it was the Russians, Guccifer or anyone else is still up for widespread debate, though by most accounts the security was so minimal that it could have been anyone. Regardless of who leaked the emails, their contents contained plenty of damaging fodder that many pundits believe contributed to Hillary Clinton’s downfall in the presidential election.

Illinois and Arizona Boards of Election

Speaking of cybercrime’s impact on elections, experts are still trying to get a handle on the implications of a pair of attacks against the state boards of elections for both Illinois and Arizona. Illinois confirmed that hackers compromised a database containing up to 200,000 voter records with names, addresses, sex and birthdays, plus social security numbers and drivers’ license numbers. Similar information was compromised in Arizona, though officials there didn’t disclose how many records were impacted. In the wake of a controversial election, the shadow of these attacks will linger over the results, particularly as some experts air their suspicions that these attacks came at the hands of Russian hackers

SWIFT Network

When news hit earlier this year that Bangladesh Bank had been snared by an audacious cyber heist that had attackers successfully abscond with $81 million in fraudulent transfers, it seemed the attack was a brilliant but isolated play against the firm’s systems. But in the ensuing months, news broke from Reuters that the attack was part of a larger-scale campaign by attackers to subvert the SWIFT messaging system used by global banks to send instructions for money transfers. Investigators have been looking into incidents at approximately a dozen banks and SWIFT is on alert to improve security practices at member banks that could lead to losses similar to those experienced by Bangladesh Bank.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

The past year was dominated by ransomware infections. The attackers are getting creative and the stakes are getting higher, as most recently illustrated in the Thanksgiving weekend attacks against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Not only did attackers compromise personal information about employees and customers of the agency, but they also locked kiosks and computers for the agency for two days, forcing it to give free rides during that time or risk service interruptions.


This particular case will probably provide plenty of fodder for security vendors’ marketing collateral for years to come. FACC, a Boeing supplier, suffered from a spearphishing attack that enabled attackers to carry out a fraudulent $55 million money transfer that sent the company’s stock in a tailspin and completely destroyed the company’s ability to make a profit in 2016. It’s a worst-case security scenario trifecta: millions of dollars stolen, a CEO and CFO fired as a result of the hack, and a root cause that ultimately came down to executives getting duped by simple social engineering through spoofed emails.