Six cyber crimes that shook the world

Data protection is big business, as is cyber crime. Make sure you know how to protect yourself.

Ireland’s digital economy contributes 5% of national GDP and provides employment for over 100,000 people. Protecting data is vital for all businesses of all shapes and sizes. 

According to the Centre for Strategic Studies, the annual worldwide cost of digital crime and intellectual property theft is $445 billion. It’s estimated that, globally, money spent by firms on IT security will be worth over $100 billion in 2018. 

Below are six cybercrimes that shook the world and how to make sure you protect your company’s data.

cyber crimes ireland

Six cybercrimes that shook the world 

A charity volunteer almost pulled off the biggest bank heist in British history

Jagmeet Channa came from a respectable family, had a great CV and even did charity walks for Oxfam. People were shocked then when, in July 2008, it came to light that the then 25-year-old HSBC bank clerk stole colleague’s passwords and transferred £72 million into bank accounts in Casablanca and Manchester. The amount stolen was 27 times the amount taken during the Great Train Robbery of 1963. It was almost the perfect crime, but the financier failed to cover his tracks. Bank officials in Malaysia noticed a discrepancy in an account, and shortly afterwards the funds were frozen, and Channa was arrested at his home five days later. 

A woman lost $1.3 million through an online dating scam

In 2013 a comfortably retired Canadian woman was convinced by a friend to join and was sure she had met the man of her dreams when she began chatting with a man named ‘Dave’ through the site. Sadly, Dave was just an alias for one of a growing number of con artists using online dating to scam vulnerable people out of their savings. The woman had amassed a healthy retirement fund through some savvy investments. However, when Dave told her he needed help paying off some debts, she quickly found herself with nothing left. In total, she reported a loss to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre of $1.33 million. Ouch. 

A group of teenage hackers nearly made off with $205 million

In 2012 the FBI arrested two dozen people from 13 countries – from the US to Japan – for involvement in a credit card scam worth a potential $205 million. What was most remarkable about the gang wasn’t just the scale of the crime, but the ages of some of the criminals involved? New Yorker Mir Islam was 19 and living with his mother when he was arrested, while fellow-New Yorker and gang member Joshua Hicks was just 18. The international syndicate had compromised over 411,000 credit and debit cards collected from various business, government and schools. At one stage of the FBI sting, an undercover agent traded a digital camera with Hicks in exchange for some of the stolen data, after which Hick apparently complained, “A different model would have been better, but hey, a free camera is a free camera”. 

All it took to steal $1.2 million worth of Bitcoin was a hacked email account

Bitcoin is a digital currency that allows users to make transactions and send money online without a central bank. Bitcoins usually mean quicker trades and small fees, but like any new technology, there are uncertainties involved. offered users digital wallets in which to store their Bitcoins, but it meant trusting the company with your money. In 2013, hackers were able to recover an old email address of the site’s owner, access the site’s server and steal 4,100 Bitcoins worth $1.2 million. Bitcoins are so difficult to trace it’s unlikely thieves like these will ever be caught, while only partial refunds were offered to the users affected. 


Irish students hacked the Fine Gael website and were questioned by the FBI

Having a party busted by college authorities or even the Gardai might be a rite of passage for many Irish students, but in 2012 two undergrads bit off slightly more than they could chew when the FBI came knocking on their door. The pair, who studied in NUIG and TCD respectively, were accused of membership of the ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous and are alleged to have been involved in the hacking of the servers of everyone from the FBI to the X-Factor. They have since pleaded guilty in an Irish court for causing criminal damage to the Fine Gael party website and were ordered to pay €10,000 in fines. 

Russian hackers made ATMs around the world spit money and cleared £650 million

In what is considered to be the biggest cybercrime ever, Russian hackers were able to compromise the systems of over 100 banks around the world through a sophisticated ‘spear phishing’ operation, where bank employees would open emails from supposedly trusted sources and infect their network with the gang’s malware. The software fed information from the bank system back to the gang and even allowed the criminals to view video feeds from within the bank’s walls to harvest more information. It enabled them to transfer millions of pounds into their accounts in one go and even command cash machines around the world to begin dispensing money at random times. In total, the gang walked away with over £650 million before the scam was uncovered. 

READ: How to prevent data leaks.