The 7 Most Notorious Hacking Groups of All Time

Hacking groups are becoming more and more commonplace. Here’s a list of the most notorious hacking groups of all time and what makes them so infamous.

10 Dec
2019
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With the rise of computers and ever-changing technology, hackers have become a strong presence in modern society. The very first hackers emerged from MIT in 1969, but back then their main goal was to improve the software and hardware they were working with.

Since then, hackers have evolved and become more malicious. From hacking major companies, to stealing millions of dollars and revealing government secrets, hackers are now a major part of modern society. Here’s a look at the most notorious hacking groups of all time and what they’ve done.

7. Lizard Squad – Active

The Lizard Squad originally announced that it disbanded in 2014, but it actually didn’t go anywhere. This hacking group appears to mostly be run by teenagers and young adults. They have mainly hacked gaming-related services like League of Legends and PlayStation

The group has claimed responsibility for hacks against Facebook, although Facebook denies that they were ever hacked. In general, the Lizard Squad has a reputation for claiming to have performed hacks when they haven’t actually done anything. They even made a false bomb threat against a Sony executive. The group did manage to successfully hack Taylor Swift’s Twitter account though, but nothing came of it.

Several members of the Lizard Squad have been arrested and charged for their activities. However, that hasn’t stopped the group from continuing to hack. Most recently, they attacked the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

6. Carbanak – Active

Very little information is known about this mysterious hacking group, but so far it has managed to steal millions from banks. Carbanak (also known as Fin7) started in 2013 and has been one of the most successful hacking groups to date. So far, the group has managed to steal $1 billion from banks around the world

The alleged mastermind behind the group was arrested in 2018 along with two other high ranking members. However, Carbanak has carried on successfully without them. A recent report from Bitdefender alleges that the group is still alive and well. Carbanaks modus operandi seems to be to remain unnoticeable; so far they have managed to stay in the shadows. 

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5. Syrian Electronic Army – Active

The Syrian Electronic Army emerged in 2011 as a pro-Assad group of hackers. Given the group’s avid support of the Assad regime, it is widely believed that the group has government ties, and Assad has publicly stated his support of the hacking group.

The hackers have primarily focused on targeting US media outlets and social media pages. The Washington Post was a victim of the hacking group (twice), as was the New York Times. Their most notorious attack was when they hacked the Associated Press’s Twitter account, claiming that the White House was under attack and that then President Barack Obama had been injured.

Over the past few years, the Syrian Electronic Army has stayed out of the headlines as it has focused on targets closer to home. However, in 2018 it was discovered that they have been developing malware for Android phones. To date, only one member of the hacking group has been arrested, while others are wanted by the FBI.

4. Lazarus Group – Active

The Lazarus Group (also known as Guardians of Peace) is a group believed to be run by the North Korean government, and it has been very successful. The hacking group seems to have started in 2009, and mostly uses malware in its attacks

However, in 2014 the Lazarus Group caught the world’s attention when it hacked Sony Pictures in retaliation for the movie The Interview being released. It is also responsible for Wannacry, a ransomware software that requires users to pay to have their data given back to them.

The Lazarus Group has also had a large amount of success with cryptocurrency. So far they have managed to steal $471 million from different cryptocurrency exchanges, and they are responsible for nearly bankrupting the Japanese crypto exchange CoinCheck. The United States government currently has sanctions placed on the hacking group and has frozen any known financial assets associated with them. 

3. Fancy Bear – Active

While the name may sound cute, this hacking group certainly is not. Fancy Bear (also called Sofacy) is a Russian hacking group that is firmly believed to be working under the Russian government. They tend to target foreign governments, embassies, media companies, defence organizations, energy companies, Russian dissidents, and even the Olympic games.

The hacking group got its start in 2008 when it targeted the Georgian government and has been going strong ever since. Fancy Bear was allegedly responsible for the Democratic National Convention hack prior to the last presidential election in the United States. They have also been responsible for the recent attacks on the German Parliament, and tried to influence the French elections in 2017. The group’s members remain largely unknown, and they show no sign of stopping. 

2. Equation Group – Active

If this name doesn’t sound familiar, you’ve probably heard of the organization it is allegedly tied to – The National Security Agency (NSA). Kapersky first announced its discovery of the Equation Group in 2015, lauding it as the most advanced hacking group it had seen to date.

The Equation Group only came to light because it’s members made a number of errors over the years. Given that the group was mostly targeting countries and governments considered to be enemies of the United States (such as Russia and Iran) and that the group seemed to have an unlimited budget, suspicions arose that the Equation Group had government ties.

While it has never been confirmed that this hacking group is working under the NSA, there is strong evidence that it probably is. Obviously, the NSA isn’t going to confirm this connection. Very little is known about the Equation Group, and they likely intend to keep it that way.

1. Anonymous – Inactive

This is probably the most recognizable hacking group on our list. Known for wearing Guy Fawkes masks, the Anonymous group has been behind some of the largest hacks of the 2000s. The group emerged out of 4chan in the early 2000s, and are some of the most well-known “hactivists” to date. 

Anonymous has been involved with a large number of hacks including the Church of Scientology, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Canadian government, the Westboro Baptist Church, ISIS, and many more. While some of the group’s reasoning for their attacks was questionable at best, most people think of Anonymous as a Robin Hood-esque group of hackers, helping to better the world.

What has made the group so successful is that it is largely decentralized; members do not often know the identities of others in Anonymous. Anonymous has been responsible for 45% of all hacks in the last four years, however, the group now seems to be defunct… or at least very quiet

Honorable Mention: Legion of Doom – Inactive

No list of hacking groups would be complete without The Legion of Doom. This legendary hacking group is no longer active, but it is a hacking group that has gone down as being the most influential of all time. The group was active through the mid-80s to early 2000s, but they are mostly known for their work from 1984-1991. The group is also responsible for penning the infamous Hacker’s Manifesto.

At the time, the most common type of hacking was that of phone companies. This included setting up phone lines that could not be billed by phone companies. The Legion of Doom feuded with another hacker group called Masters of Deception, and their battle royale to decimate one another became known as The Great Hacker War. 

In comparison to the hacking we see nowadays, their activities seem very tame, but it was some of the biggest cyber warfare at the time. Most of the members are still largely unknown.

Conclusion

Since hackers emerged, they have become more and more nefarious. Hacking groups have gone from setting up free phone lines to attempting to destroy whole governments. We have certainly seen a rise in government-sanctioned hacking groups. While protection against cyber warfare is a necessity in today’s age, it would be nice to see governments focus more on preventing attacks instead of initiating them.

Individuals are very rarely the targets of hacking groups (unless you are a high profile individual). However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for your personal data to be compromised as the result of a hack. Major companies and social media platforms are amongst the most common targets.

If you’ve been the victim of a data breach or hack (you can check on the website Have I Been Pwned?), it’s important to know what could happen to your personal data afterwards. Most people aren’t able to prevent a hack, but there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself, and it’s vital that you do your due diligence. If anything, hacking groups are only going to become more advanced as time goes on.