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The Top Data Breaches of Last Year

2023 was yet another year that saw a record-breaking number of data breaches. Cybercriminals use various tactics to extort, steal, and pilfer the information of organisations and their stakeholders.

But which was the worst? Let’s find out.

The Cisco IOS XE Attack

This attack targeted Cisco IOS XE customers, compromising over 42,000 devices at the well-known company in October. The zero-day vulnerability exploit received a 10.0 risk score from the Larry Ellison-owned company, the highest it can grant. Malicious actors had full access to users’ compromised devices, constituting a severe security breach.

Fortunately, businesses can avoid attacks like these by properly testing software and devices in controlled environments before releasing them to the public. Expert ethical hackers should identify any zero-day exploits and patch them before products go live.

The MGM And Caesars Entertainment Attacks

Casino operators MGM and Caesars Entertainment experienced an Oceans 11-style attack in September 2023, prompting an in-depth investigation and warnings of further attacks. Hackers used social engineering to trick the IT helpdesk into providing full access to these companies’ systems, causing them to reveal sensitive information.

More worryingly, an alliance between English-speaking and Russian gangs perpetuated the successful breach. The two parties cooperated to gain the casinos’ trust and obtain information, tricking authorised help desk professionals.

Organisations can avoid attacks like these by training help desk professionals on social engineering risks. Employees should understand the tactics criminals use to gain sensitive information and how they exploit human vulnerabilities.

Microsoft Cloud Email Breach

The Microsoft cloud email breach was another significant hack of 2023, resulting in ten U.S. state departments losing over 60,000 emails. Discovered in June, the attack affected top officials, including the country’s chief Chinese ambassador.

A Microsoft investigation revealed the hack was of Chinese origin. Hackers took advantage of a flaw that meant systems could not detect an Azure Active Directory key after a system crash a couple of years earlier.

Preventing this issue is more challenging, but it reveals how organisations must ensure the integrity of their systems. Auditing previous crashes and breaches is essential for identifying security vulnerabilities.

The Barracuda Email Security Gateway Attacks

In May, Barracuda discovered a hack that exploited a vulnerability in the company’s email security gateway via on-premises appliances. It later revealed that 5 % of these devices were vulnerable and had been so ever since October 2022.

The discovery forced Barracuda to tell its customers to replace their email security gateway devices immediately. The company could not offer an immediate fix but said that the attacks were part of a wider campaign against it by Chinese government proxies.

Barracuda could have prevented the email security gateway attacks by adopting multi-layered defences. The company, unfortunately, relied solely on a security gateway, which meant that hackers could exploit a single vulnerability to gain access to its systems. It could also have implemented AI and machine learning systems to analyse email behaviour and shut down systems in the event of an anomaly for human review.