Ransomware cyberattack: Online warfare has grown in scale in the past 10 years

wave of cyber attacks, which hit a clutch of multinationals, came just six weeks after what the EU’s law enforcement agency described as an “unprecedented” attack by WannaCry Ransomware.

From “cyberwar” to “hacktivism” and “cyberterrorism”, here are some of the major cyber attacks over the past decade:

The Baltic nation of Estonia was the first state hit by a massive cyber attack in 2007, which paralysed key corporate and government web services for days.

Estonia blamed Moscow, with which is was mired in a diplomatic conflict, but Moscow denied the charge.

A year later, Georgia suffered similar attacks, also during a conflict with Russia.

In July 2009, the White House, Pentagon and State Department websites were targeted in a coordinated cyberattack which also struck sites in South Korea.

In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of a major cyber attack, linked to its North Korea satire “The Interview”.

Washington blamed Pyongyang for the hacking, a claim it denied — though it had strongly condemned the film, which features a fictional CIA plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong-Un.

In May, Qatar said its official agency QNA had been the victim of an unprecedented cyber attack, with the publication of comments falsely attributed to its Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The reported comments provoked a serious diplomatic crisis with three of its Gulf neighbours and Egypt.

Qatar has accused neighbouring countries of being behind the attack. The FBI is helping in the probe.

Cyberterrorism and cybercriminality

In January 2015, a group declaring support for Islamic State jihadists hacked into the social media accounts of US Central Command (CENTCOM), an embarrassing setback for Washington in its war against IS in Syria and Iraq.

Two months later, a group calling itself the “Islamic State Hacking Division” published what they said were the names and addresses of 100 military personnel and urged supporters to kill them.

Major companies and media houses have also been targeted, including Yahoo!, which was targeted by hackers seeking personal data on millions of users in both 2013 and 2014.

The loose-knit piracy collective Anonymous, arguably the most well-known hacking group, has targeted a number of organisations under its mantle of fighting injustices, including the Pentagon, the Church of Scientology, the IS group and Mastercard.

Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, founded 10 years ago by Australian Julian Assange, specialises in the release of classified materials.

In 2010, it published 251,000 classified cables from US embassies around the world and thousands of military documents on Afghanistan.

Last year it published files and communications from the Democratic Party, damaging presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. US intelligence officials said the release was part of a Russian plot to aid the eventual election victor Donald Trump.

Ransomware – the Wannacry precedent

The attacks spread rapidly around the globe using a security flaw in Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system, an older version that is no longer given mainstream tech support by the US giant.

The attacks were launched via WannaCry, a type of malware called ransomware that encrypts files on an infected computer and demands money via virtual currency bitcoin to unlock them.

It affected 300,000 computers in 150 countries, and among its victims were Britain’s National Health Service, a factory belonging to French carmaker Renault and Spanish phone operator Telefonica.