The Most Audacious Hacks in Computer History

Audacious Hacks




When we think of warfare, most people will speak of the horror. Guns, tanks, bombs and explosions. Death and destruction everywhere. This is what war brings to people and to places.

However, there’s another form of warfare that is becoming increasingly prevalent and it can often be just as destructive as traditional war; cyber warfare.

Yes, computers are not only a powerful tool, but used by experts can be a powerful weapon too. The recent troubles with the Ukraine and Russia have highlighted cyber-attacks on Ukrainian computer networks. The sophisticated nature of the ‘Uroburos’ cyberweapon has led experts to believe it was designed to hack government and telecoms networks. Is it a coincidence that this weapon originated from Russia? Who can say, but it is not alone in being a way to disrupt people, businesses and countries as a malicious action.

Here are other examples of computer hacking which are noteworthy for their sheer audaciousness.

US Nearly Explodes Siberia. All of it.
The year is 1982. It is the height of the Cold War between the USA and Russia. The CIA and their Soviet equivalent, the KGB, were constantly trying to outdo each other. In one of the first examples of a Trojan Virus, the CIA added it to software the Russians stole and then used to monitor and regulate Russian gas pipelines. The software would lie in wait until the program finished running a specific number of commands (in this case, 10 million cycles).

After 10 million, it would change the program slightly. This occurred after several months, and then things got serious. The code instructed the software to run a pressure test at higher than normal levels. However, the CIA did not take into account that Russian engineering might not be equipped to handle it. The result was a pipeline explosion in Siberia that was so big it was 20% the strength of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

The Best Spy in the Business Wasn’t a Person
Traditionally, secret agents and spies were men and women who put their lives on the line for their government. It didn’t take long for someone to figure out a computer could probably do the same job.
Enter Flame. 20 megabytes of code that was programmed to spy on several countries in the Middle East. Flame had the ability to do the following:
  • Copy files
  • Capture screenshots
  • Download instant messaging logs
  • Turn on computer microphones and cameras remotely
Basically, it acted like James Bond in many ways. In fact, it was also programmed to project a specific cryptographic sequence known as a ‘prefix collision attack’ in case of detection. This means that is basically disguised itself (like any good spy) by convincing antivirus software that it was supposed to be there.

Spy Malware Pic





The amazing thing is that if it did get detected, it would delete itself and all traces from a system. It managed to operate for five years until eventually discovered in Iran. They claimed that the US was responsible for the virus. The US has denied all knowledge so we may never know the truth.

This post was written by Jake Messer on behalf of HANDD, a company specialising in data loss prevention services, file encryption and managed file transfer.

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