File photo shows a Citibank sign at a bank branch in midtown Manhattan, New York
A Citibank sign is seen at a bank branch in midtown Manhattan, New York in this November 17, 2010 file photo. REUTERS

The level of threat cyber crime poses the world is a growing topic of debate, with hacks on titan companies like Google, Sony and now Citibank adding gas to the flame, the IBTimes takes a look at some of the biggest hacks carried out this year.

The problem: Fox and Osborne's warnings

Both the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Defence Secretary Liam Fox have issued public warnings about the growing threat cyber attacks pose the country.

Recently, in a speech made at the London Chamber of Commerce Dr Fox described how the number of cyber attacks targeting the MoD has doubled since last year. Fox claimed that cyber-attacks are now costing the U.K roughly £27 billion a year, with the defence sector itself losing £1.65 billion.

"I and my senior colleagues are routinely alerted to incidents that could have had severe consequences if they'd not been stopped.

"We now see weekly reports of cyber attacks against businesses, institutions and networks used by people going about their daily lives. The cost to the UK economy of cyber crime is estimated to be in the region of £27bn a year and rising.

"These are attacks against the whole fabric of our society. When it comes to cyber security we must fight this battle together."

These claims mirror those of Osborne, who outlined his growing concerns speaking at the Google Zeitgeist event in Hertfordshire earlier this year.


While debatedly the least serious of the recent cyber attacks -- unless you happen to be a PlayStation 3 owner -- the recent slew of hacks against Sony are without a doubt one of the main reasons the debate about cyber security has grown so quickly in recent months.

The first attack against Sony occurred in April this year and was felt by an estimated 100 million people.

The attack targeted the company's PlayStation Network -- the network that runs both the PS3 and PSP consoles online features.

The hack reportedly compromised the personal and credit details of as many as 100 million customers, forcing the company to shut down the service.

The prolonged outage left all Sony console owners unable to use any of the console's online services for nearly two months -- the Qriocity music service was only activated earlier today.

Since then the company has been the target of further cyber-attacks by the hacker collective LulzSec. The group apparently chose to target Sony to demonstrate its networks continuing weakness.


Last month Google also reported an internet based assault on its Gmail service.

The statement released by Google indicated that certain Gmail users' accounts were targeted using malware and spear phishing emails.

The attack was apparently intended to reveal the user's account password to the hackers, thus granting them access to the user's account allowing them to digitally monitor the user's messages. The accounts targeted reportedly included those of senior U.S. government officials as well as Chinese activists and journalists.

The attack was reportedly traced to the Shandong Province in centralChina and has led to widespread speculation that it was carried out by agents of the Chinese Government.

Since the attack even the U.S. Government has found itself having to investigate whether the attack on Google could result in a breach in its own security.


The attack on Citibank though reportedly carried out in May, was only revealed today -- leading to widespread criticism against the bank. The bank is yet to issue a statement outlining how the hackers breached its online security.

The hack reportedly gave the hackers the names, account numbers and contact information of thousands of the bank's customers.

Citibank was also quick to point out that it did not lose certain key bits of information like customers birth-dates or card security codes.

Speaking to Reuters a Citi representative commented, "We are contacting customers whose information was impacted. Citi has implemented enhanced procedures to prevent a recurrence of this type of event."

Despite this, Citibank was forced to admit that one per cent of its 21 million account holders were affected by the attack -- meaning that thousands of its customers details and accounts have been compromised.

What this means for the future

While the issues surrounding cyber security are nothing new, the recent slew of attacks on big-name corporations does seem to vindicate Osborne and Fox's claims that the number cyber of attacks carried out each year is on the rise.

This fact in turn has led to several key ideas on what direction both governments and private companies should take to answer the growing threat.

One common approuch, as expressed by Fox, is for governments to work with companies and "battle together" against cyber-crime. Microsoft representatives expressed a similar sentiment late last month.

Another, shown by the U.S. Government has been to develop its own cyber-weapons. The idea being similar to that of the Cold War Nuclear Arms Race -- presenting those that may attack with the promise of mutually assured destruction.

What exact path both the private and public sector will take in response to the growing threat hackers pose remains to be seen. But the recent news of yet another big-name company falling victim may well speed up the decision making process.

UPDATE: LulzSec has since published data regarding the U.K.'s NHS healthcare service.