Data Security Lessons: The Biggest Recent Hacking Incidents 2020

This year may have had more than its fair share of troubles. First and foremost, we are surviving the COVID-19 pandemic whose scale and reach is unprecedented in our lifetimes. In addition, there is global economic turbulence, civil rights uprisings worldwide, geopolitical tests of power, and multiple business crises. It is completely understandable to feel like you are losing control over your business in 2020.

Your personal business has likely been impacted by at least one of these larger-scale issues as well. In fact, your company may be on the line. And if you, like a majority Fortune 500 companies, have shifted your business to remote operations, cybersecurity should be ranked at the top of your  to-do list.

Unfortunately, these trying times create  fertile soil for cybercrime and undeveloped remote work practices can be fantastic hackers’ targets, especially if you still use email as a primary communication tool. However, you can protect yourself. If you use a customer service helpdesk for communication with both your employees and customers, then your safety measures are on an advanced level.

There are multiple security procedures that you need to implement to protect your company’s reputation. You need to be prepared even if you unfortunately need to communicate security breach notifications.

However, it is not all that bad this year as people are trying to help each other more than ever. The goal here is to inform you about the cybercrime stats and the most recent hacking incidents for 2020 to help you learn from these examples and keep your database far from the hackers’ hands!

Let’s review those recent hacking incidents now!

A. Hacking Incidents Overview 2020

Today, cybercriminals are using sophisticated hacking tools to destroy your business in just a couple of days. There has been a dramatic 273% rise in the number of stolen records in Q1 of 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019. At least 16 billion records have been stolen since 2019.

Unfortunately, numerous global companies have been cybercrime victims this year, precisely 81 global organizations from 81 countries! These numbers are quite disturbing, right?

Don’t worry, there are certain procedures and measures that you can establish, and you can learn from the existing hacking incidents to prevent any future cyber damages!

B. The Biggest Recent Hacking Incidents 2020

1. Slickwraps: The "White Hat" Hacker

The Slickwraps hacking incident story is truly tragi-comic. Slickwraps is an e-commerce business that enables customers to create their own skins for electronics. It all  started in February when a self-named “White Hat Hacker” warned the company about its "abysmal cybersecurity" in a Medium blog post, which is now deleted.

Unfortunately, the company didn’t pay enough attention to this alert and didn’t take any action to increase its cybersecurity or protect its customer data. This negligence led to another unfortunate occurrence. Another hacker with malicious intentions read the blog post, which was basically instructions for hacking.

Not so long after, the hacker broke into the Slickwraps system and collected all of their valuable customer data, such as admin account details, customer photos, shipping and billing addresses, and the CVs of all of their employees. Afterwards, the hacker even went as far as to  inform all of the customers about the breach, which is where the complete comedy lies.

a) How it happened

The saddest part here is that the hacking was so easy. The only thing that the hacker needed to do was add  malware where customers uploaded their photos. This simple move enabled them to reach the company’s most important directory, and the remote code execution was a piece of cake from here.

b) What you can learn

Slickwraps’  first mistake was that they allowed the upload of any type of file. They also failed because they didn’t have a strong protection wall surrounding  their directory. The key takeaway here is that you need to have an independent security audit and never ever ignore the security advice you’re given.

2. Antheus Tecnologia Biometric Data Breach

The Antheus Technologie is a Brazilian biometric solutions firm. Its customers and employees are lucky that SafetyDetectives , a team of pro bono cybersecurity researchers exist. Back in March, they discovered that 16 gigabytes of company data, or 81.5 million records including admin login information, employee phone numbers, email addresses, company emails, and even 76,000 fingerprints were severely exposed on an unsecured server.

Of note, the exact fingerprints weren’t stored, however, the data contained binary codes that could easily unveil the exact fingerprints. You may assume that these codes falling into the wrong hands could result in catastrophic consequences.

a) How it happened

The core issue was the complete absence of a password to protect the cloud-based database and the lack of data encryption. This may be human error, but more than likely it’s negligence of the company’s IT team. Even the company’s report was an error as they tried to cover up the breach by minimizing the amount of data that was exposed.

b) What you can learn

All data should be protected with a secure password and a robust authentication and access control. Most of the breaches happened due to the company’s failure to configure the migration to a cloud-based database. In fact, this oversight is the second biggest source of data breaches, after hacking and before malware. It is unfortunate news that misconfiguration errors have surged since 2017. Many experts think that is due to multiple independent researchers on the internet that can’t be easily tracked.

3. Marriott: Credential-Based Hacking Incidents

The Marriott hacking incidents are true scandals, and there are two separate instances. Marriott is a widely known hotel chain that experienced their most recent hacking incident in March this year, only two years since the chain discovered its first data breach. Everything here indicates that they didn’t learn from their mistake.

At the beginning, they claimed that an unexpected amount of data was leaked, which turned out to be a massive data breach exposing 5.2 million guest records. The guests’ details that were compromised included personal information such as contact info, birthday, gender, and linked account details such as airline loyalty programs.

a)How it happened

After a thorough cyber investigation, it became clear that the credentials  of two employees were the first hacker targets. After obtaining these, the hacker started a long-term data theft which lasted for a month before being discovered! That is catastrophic news, considering that the cost-per-day of a data breach is astronomical! The main cause of the hacking incident remains unknown, however, it may have been that phishing and credential stuffing were the main culprits.

b) What you can learn

The biggest lesson here is that you need to establish and maintain a firm data privacy policy that regulates employee behavior. In order to execute on this policy in the best possible way, you can deploy a great customer support software. If Marriott had multi-factor authentication at the time of the breach, none of this would’ve happened and their customer base and reputation would have remained intact.

4. Australian Football:’s Shocking Security Violations

BigFooty is a popular app where Australian football, or more precisely, soccer fans chat about their favorite teams or any sport-related topic. This was widely seen as a fun and innocuous app; however, its dark side was soon uncovered. Luckily, the Safe Detectives did a great job again and discovered that there was an incredibly massive data breach.

They found that a massive 132GB of the fans’ sensitive data had been shared publicly. Unfortunately, hackers gained access to all fans’ messages as well as personal data such as phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses, and GPS data. The messages contained racist and hateful speech that could be traced to local police and city officials, thus subjecting them to blackmail and other reputational risks.

a)How it happened

The hacking incident is another data security failure due to a misconfigured database. Although users registered under a false name, hackers would extract all their personal data from messages, IP addresses, and GPS data. Thus, there was a false sense of security as users were quite easily identified. In order to prevent this kind of security violation, you simply need to have strong password protection measures as your first security step. If not, this malpractice leaves millions of users’ sensitive data exposed on the web.

b) What you can learn

Having a database that stores private messages is indeed a big responsibility as it can cause numerous damages if not maintained properly. Only qualified individuals with proper cybersecurity training and knowledge should be allowed to access such highly sensitive data. Today business leaders need a centralized identity management and a private cloud-based database to achieve the highest-level of cybersecurity nowadays.