As technology becomes more advanced and we live more and more of our lives online, cyber attacks and hacking have become more commonplace.
Because of this, as the BBC points out, 2014 is likely to be the year of encryption. A variety of companies like Microsoft and Yahoo have announced plans to make major improvements to the encryption of their customers' data, and it couldn't come any sooner. Almost every week we get news of one major hacking or more.
From just this weekend, here are five stories that demonstrate how vulnerable online data is and how badly we need to fix that.
We know that Target and Neiman Marcus both faced major network breaches during the 2013 holiday season, but according to sources familiar with the attacks, at least three other well-known U.S. retailers were victims to similar breaches. The anonymous source said the attacks involved retailers that have outlets in malls, but didn't elaborate any further.
Though the cyber-attacks were conducted with similar techniques to the Target attacks, it's still unclear if these three attacks were perpetrated by the same people. Law enforcement sources suspect the ring leaders are from Eastern Europe, which has been the birthplace of many such cyber-crimes in the past decade.
When Target was hacked back around Thanksgiving time, the company reported that as many as 40 million customers may have had credit or debit card information stolen. However, Target is now reporting that 70 million customers had information such as their name, address, phone number and email address hacked in the breach, and it's not yet clear how much of an overlap there was between the two groups, meaning that as many as 110 million customers' information may have been compromised.
On Saturday, the Syrian Electronic Army — which is loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — hacked Microsoft's official blog and the @XBoxSupport and @MSFTnews Twitter accounts, and then used them to send out anti-Microsoft messages, which were soon after taken down. Microsoft reported that the situation was quickly under control and that no customer data was compromised.
The SEA was also responsible for hacking Skype in a similar fashion on New Years Day.
A hacker claiming to be a member of the infamous hacking collective Anonymous tweeted Friday night that he has hacked and compromised the file sharing service Dropbox. According to the tweets, the hacker — going by the twitter handle @1775Sec and a member of AnonOpsKorea, a Korean offshoot of Anonymous — said he would give Dropbox time to fix the vulnerability before threatening a significant "database leak."
Well it turns out this was a hoax and Dropbox was not actually hacked, but it still made for a few hours of serious cyber-excitement.
The hacker later tweeted that the hack had been done in honor of fallen Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Also in honor of the anniversary of Aaron Swartz's Suicide, Anonymous re-engaged Operation Last Resort and hacked MIT's website, defacing it for one hour. Taking over the server of MIT's Cogeneration project, Anonymous replaced the site with a line that read "REMEMBER THE DAY WE FIGHT BACK REMEMBER / WE NEVER FORGET, WE NEVER SURRENDER, EXPECT US / #OPLASTRESORT."
The Operation Last Resort campaign is partially a retaliation for what many believe was the overzealous prosecution by the Department of Justice deemed a "bullying" use of outdated computer crime laws that led to Reddit, Creative Commons and Demand Progress co-founder Aaron Swartz's suicide in New York City on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.
Although MIT originally claimed to have played a neutral role in Swartz's prosecution, later information suggests the university actually had an active role in the situation.