Top cybersecurity stories of 2019

January 21, 2020

2019 was a wild ride in the world of cybersecurity, with big stories around network security, data privacy protection, and the state of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance all hitting the headlines. Ransomware froze a number of cities, including 70 state and local governments across the United States, and geopolitical tensions are escalating worldwide.

Here’s a rundown of last year’s top news stories in cybersecurity:


WhatsApp Gold Scam – Users received a WhatsApp bogus message prompting them to download a fake update called WhatsApp Gold. Chain messages linked to the fraudulent app have been around since 2016 and were determined as hoaxes in 2017.

The hoax promised users access to enhanced features in WhatsApp if they download the “secret” update, but when users click on the link, they end up downloading malicious software called WhatsApp Gold, which could hack into the victim’s device and steal data.


Gmail Dot Account Feature Scam – A group of business email compromise (BEC) attackers took advantage of a little-known feature in Gmail called “dot accounts” to commit multifarious fraud attempts. The scammers used fairly simple tactics to enact their schemes, such as the approval of at least $65,000 worth of credit card applications at four US-based financial institutions, file 13 fraudulent tax returns with an online tax-filing service, apply for unemployment benefits under nine identities in a large US state, etc.

The group was able to centralize and organize their fraudulent activities around a set of email accounts. Organizations were alerted to check for excessive use of dots in newly created accounts to help mitigate further risks.


Attackers Target Home Routers with DNS Hijacking – DNS hijacking, also known as DNS redirection, is a DNS attack technique wherein attackers attempt to incorrectly resolve your DNS queries and redirect your traffic to a malicious website. In April 2019, hackers broke into home routers to launch a DNS attack. Security experts found different types of attacks that were traced back to hosts on the Google Cloud Platform (AS15169) network.

Considering the increasing number of remote workers, attackers could go around corporate defenses by attacking employees’ home networks, which are often less secure.


US Coast Guard Issued Cybersecurity Alert – The US Coast Guard issued a safety alert warning commercial vessel owners and operators to ensure updated cybersecurity measures were in place after a previous malware attack significantly degraded the computer systems of a deep draft vessel in February 2019. The incident did not impact the ship’s critical control systems, but it did highlight the lack of proper cybersecurity strategies. It also showed that targeting government sectors and military assets would continue to be valuable to attackers who seek to disrupt society.


Fake Website Targets US Veterans – Tortoiseshell, a known cybercriminal, targeted US military veterans with a fake hiring website that hosts malware. According to researchers, the fake website prompts users to download an app that then downloads malware that deploys malicious spyware and other tools onto victims’ systems.

Tortoiseshell had used the same backdoor method employed against Middle Eastern targets back in September 2019. Security experts are expecting that this reliance on the same tactics and techniques will lead to the group’s downfall.


Phishing Campaign Attacks Office 365 – Office 365 continues to grow in popularity. With 155 million corporate users as of this writing, it has become a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel environment for sophisticated phishing attacks. In November 2019, security experts warned of a newly discovered phishing campaign targeting Office 365 administrators.

Because Office 365 admins often have elevated privileges on multiple systems within an organization, cybercriminals can usurp admins and compromise password reset attempts or abuse single sign-on systems. If an administrator is phished, the attackers are able to set up new accounts within the compromised organization and then use these accounts to send out more bogus emails.

Like chess, cybersecurity is a game of foresight where hackers and defenders are looking to checkmate each other. While the threat landscape keeps evolving, you can still ensure that your business is secure.

It’s all about investing in the right technology. Being prepared for this year’s threats means putting your business ahead of competitors while boosting productivity. Graphus is the perfect safety net for your business. We offer the right technology for your security woes. Email us today to learn more.