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Top 5 cyber incidents of 2021 in the UK

A digital privacy expert reviews the most significant cyber incidents of 2021 and shares predictions for 2022

2021 was another record-breaking year for leaks, hacks, and dark-web data dumps. Hackers were extremely active in exploiting the weak points of internet users and companies, with the attacks ranging from those on private individuals to hospitals and entire municipalities. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), in the first nine months of 2021, 281.5 million people were impacted by data breaches, data exposures, and data leaks.

“This year, we saw headline after headline about ransomware attacks, third-party hacks, breaches of valuable data, and even some cyber espionage,” explains Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Our lives have moved into the digital realm, making us leave an even bigger digital footprint. Not surprisingly, it invites scammers and hackers to look for various security vulnerabilities that they can exploit.”

From the enormous number of data breaches and hacking attacks that happened in 2021, NordVPN’s Markuson has listed the top 5 cyber incidents in the UK:

  1. Thousands of names and addresses belonging to the customers of Guntrader, a leading website for buying and selling shotguns and rifles, have been published on the dark web following a “security breach” this July. The incident affected more than 100,000 customers.
  2. In February, British energy firm Npower experienced an attack that exposed some customers’ financial and personal information. Contact details, birth dates, addresses, and partial bank account numbers are among details believed stolen. The firm didn’t reveal how many accounts were affected by the breach.
  3. An “unprecedented” and coordinated cyberattack has struck multiple UK-based providers of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services. Representatives were unable to identify how many firms were affected, but it was reported that an overall threat has been made to the entire industry.
  4. Data on countless celebrities, politicians, and heads of state appear to be in the hands of ransomware actors after a group using the Conti variant compromised a high-end jeweler over the weekend.
  5. More than 300 branches of the convenience store chain Spar in the north of England have been hit by a cyberattack, forcing many of them to close. The attack hit the company’s computer systems, causing a “total IT outage.”

Some of the biggest data breaches globally

Among the biggest global breaches, here comes the tech giant Facebook, whose users’ data was found on hacking forums in early 2021. The leak included full names, phone numbers, email addresses, location information, and more. In total, 533 million users were impacted.

Moreover, the news broke in 2021 that the credit score company Experian was linked to the exposure of the data of 220 million Brazilians. The breach, uncovered by the security company PSafe, resulted in large quantities of personal information being sold on the dark web.

Finally, in September 2021, Syniverse, a company that plays a key role in the infrastructure of many huge telecom groups (T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, to name a few),  admitted that hackers had access to their networks for potentially several years. More than 500 million records were lost, affecting millions of cellphone users worldwide.

“​​2021 highlighted vulnerabilities within third-party connections, saw hackers getting smarter and better, and showed how cyber attacks can have devastating real-world consequences,” says Markuson from NordVPN

Will 2022 be any better?

2021 was an overwhelming year for cybersecurity. It is expected that such large corporate data breaches will only get worse. Hackers and the tools they use are becoming more sophisticated, while companies and governments struggle to keep up. 

With the start of a new year, Markuson shares some predictions for the future of cybersecurity in 2022:

  • The success rate of cyber attacks on businesses will decrease but still remain above the pre-pandemic levels. After two years of exponential growth in cyberattacks, predicting the opposite may seem counterintuitive.
  • The demand for ransomware as a service (RaaS) will increase. Cyber extortion has proved lucrative for ransomware gangs and grabbed the attention of criminals who do not have the skills to develop malware on their own.
  • Cyberattacks against AI will emerge as a unique vulnerability. As AI tools are being integrated into more sensitive areas, there is more to gain from their weak spots.

“The forecasted retreat of the pandemic will lead a part of the workforce to return to the office or adapt a hybrid form of work instead of full work-from-home behavior. This will reduce potential access points for hackers. Meanwhile, those who opt for permanent remote work will have had the time to address the security issues overlooked in the rushed transition from offices,” says Markuson.


NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider and is used by over 14 million internet users worldwide. NordVPN provides double VPN encryption, malware blocking, and Onion Over VPN. The product is very user friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries worldwide, and is P2P friendly. One of the key features of NordVPN is the zero-log policy. For more information: