MoneyINC Logo
Years of

The 10 World's Worst Shutdowns That Cost Billions


In theory, everything should work fairly smoothly in both terms of government and business around the world. However, that isn't always the way things go in reality. The truth of the matter is that more often than not, outside circumstances can have a dramatic impact on the way both a federal government and the way a business is operated.

In fact, there have been numerous shutdowns of both governments and individual businesses around the world that have ended up costing billions.

As you can see from the list below, everything from cybersecurity attacks on individual businesses to government shutdowns is listed. Even in the mildest of cases, you're talking about a loss of several million dollars. Most of the events listed here ended up costing billions and in one case, the event that landed at the number one spot has cost the world trillions of dollars.

Without any further delay, here are the 10 worst shutdowns that have occurred around the world, along with the amount of money that was lost as a direct result of their occurrence.

10. Hannaford Brothers Cybersecurity Breach of 2007 ($252 million)

Believe it or not, this is a cybersecurity breach that most people have never even heard of. That being said, it remains one of the most severe security breaches of its type to this day. At the time that it occurred, back in 2007, it was almost unheard of to think that a security breach this large (and this costly) could ever happen.

It occurred when a string of supermarkets called Hannaford Brothers was hacked, impacting all 300 stores that they had stringing up and down the northeast coast of the United States. The problem was that in the process, the personal information, including banking information, of virtually every supermarket customer was stolen.

That left the individuals who were affected vulnerable because people were taking loans out in their name, wiping out their bank accounts and essentially ruining their credit, often without them having any knowledge of a problem until it was too late to curtail the damage. Eventually, it ended up costing the supermarket chain more than $250 million to correct the issue, including reimbursing customers for certain financial losses.

9. Veterans Administration Cybersecurity Breach of 2006 ($500 million)

This is another issue that occurred in the United States, this time in 2006. Hackers got into the main system of the Veterans Administration, an organization that operates everything from financial benefits to healthcare for individuals who have previously served in the military.

Eventually, their efforts not only cost the Veterans Administration more than $500 million, but also brought the entire organization to a standstill for several days.

During that time, it was impossible for anyone to access their benefits, apply for new benefits, or even access healthcare. Essentially, the entire Veterans Administration system was paralyzed.

While it is known that the organization itself lost millions of dollars as a direct result of this cyber attack, it's never been calculated concerning the cost to individuals who weren't able to access the benefits they needed during that time. More importantly, the human cost has never been taken into account with regard to the individuals who were unable to access the medical care they needed during the time the system was down.

8. MafiaBoy Attack of 2000 ($1 billion)

This was an attack that affected a number of companies that do business on a global scale. In fact, companies such as Amazon were practically paralyzed by the events of this particular cyberattack, bringing business to an utter halt.

Other global businesses that were also impacted included eBay and Yahoo. American computer company Dell and US news outlet CNN were also affected.

Because of the attack, Amazon and Yahoo were basically dead in the water for a number of days. Unable to do business as usual, it's estimated that this shutdown eventually cost a collective $1 billion.

That may not sound like a lot by today's standards, but when the attack occurred in 2000, it was considered one of the worst instances of business shutdowns in history. It also affected hundreds of thousands of individuals because people weren't able to do any business with these companies in the same manner that they are accustomed to on a daily basis.

7. India Internet Shutdown of 2020 ($2.8 billion)

In 2020, the entirety of India's internet system was brought to its knees, thanks to a cyberattack that ended up costing almost $3 billion. It is worth noting that the Indian government wasn't capable of getting things back on track straight away, as it took some time to figure out exactly who was behind the attacks. Eventually, everything simply ground to a halt.

This cost India's economy hundreds of millions of dollars. The rest was money that was forced to be paid out in ransomware in order to get India's internet system back up and running.

You might think that some individual who had a great deal of skill and far too much time on their hands was responsible for such an attack, as that is typically the case. Surprisingly, that is not what happened here at all. As it turns out, this was the direct result of attacks from other governments. That's right, a handful of governments around the world were responsible for this particular cyberattack.

It was done as something of a trial run just to see if it was possible to do so. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell India what was happening, nor did they offer to reimburse them for the money they lost in the process.

6. Epsilon Marketing Hack of 2011 ($4 billion)

Marketing company Epsilon is largely responsible for maintaining customer databases for major companies such as Target, Best Buy and JPMorgan Chase. For individuals living in the United States, these companies are practically household names, as almost everyone does business with them on one level or another.

In 2011, the marketing company had their system hacked, effectively grinding the entire system to a halt, paralyzing all three companies and jeopardizing the personal information of hundreds of thousands of customers.

It's estimated that between the three companies, roughly $1.3 billion in revenue was lost. Since the hack occurred as a direct result of Epsilon's failure to keep their system up to date, they were held almost entirely responsible for the incident. That ended up costing the company $4 billion. It also took a significant amount of time before the companies in question were able to resume business as usual.

5. U.S. Government Shutdown of 2019 ($5.7 billion)

The United States government has seen more than its fair share of shutdowns over the years. As a matter of fact, there have been several of them since the 1970s, often more than most people can even remember. That being said, the overwhelming majority of them only lasted for a short amount of time, often less than three days.

Others affected only certain agencies, leaving the remainder of the government largely intact. During some of these so-called shutdowns, it was almost impossible to tell that anything was different for the average individual. Unfortunately, things were quite different during the government shutdown in 2019.

This particular shutdown lasted for several days and it affected every government agency. People didn't know if they were going to get their Social Security checks or not. Individuals who were reliant on food stamps to buy food were forced to do without because their payments didn't go through on time. Anyone who worked for the federal government was either sent home or told that they would have to work, but without pay.

All government buildings were shut down and no one could process paperwork such as passports, requests for federal student loan aid or anything of the like. Supposedly, it was done because the government didn't have an approved budget, effectively meaning they didn't have the money to operate. All of that lost revenue that occurred while everything was shut down ended up costing almost $6 billion. As a result, the country’s money woes only increased.

4. The WannaCry Ransomware Attack of 2017 ($10 billion)

There have been a lot of ransomware and cybersecurity breaches on this list, but this is definitely one of the most costly examples. This particular incident affected computers all over the world, impacting governments in more than 150 different countries. It's estimated that more than 230,000 computers were infected.

It wasn't just government agencies that were impacted, either. Major businesses that operated in these countries were also affected. For example, automotive makers Renault and Nissan were forced to halt operations because their computers were brought to a standstill as a direct result of the attack.

The countries that were impacted the hardest included Taiwan, Ukraine, India and Russia. As previously mentioned, there were well over 100 other countries that were also involved. Essentially, every computer that was infected was completely shut down until these governments paid the requested ransom in order to get them back up and running again. Overall, the incident cost more than $10 billion around the world.

3. The Great Flood of 1993 ($38.6 billion)

This is not a cybersecurity breach nor a government shutdown, but instead a natural disaster that brought an entire section of the United States to its knees. It occurred in 1993 when both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers flooded, effectively destroying a large chunk of the American Midwest. It took weeks for most of the businesses in the area to resume operations, even in a reduced capacity.

The ones who were in the direct path of the flood were forced to shut down for months. In some cases, they went out of business permanently. Between the cost of the flooding itself and the lost revenue that occurred as a direct result of so many businesses being unable to remain open, it's estimated that this natural disaster came at a cost of more than $40 billion. More importantly, it also brought life as most people would know it to a standstill for weeks on end.

2. The Events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 ($186.3 billion)

This is another natural disaster, but it would be remiss not to include it. Hurricane Katrina is the most significant hurricane that has ever occurred in the United States. It didn't just cost the country a lot of money, nor did it simply cause a significant amount of damage. It brought the entire coastal portion of Louisiana to a standstill, especially in New Orleans. Everything was under water and that forced the local economy in that area to stop functioning all together.

It took weeks for that portion of the United States to begin doing business as usual again and in some cases, it was a matter of years before things were back up and running. Even now, all these years later, there are businesses that were once stalwarts of the area that are simply missing from the region.

Truth be told, the area is still reeling from the financial effects that occurred as a direct result of this hurricane. It may not be as evident now as it was immediately after the incident, but it is still quite obvious in many parts of the city, as well as within the larger coastal region.

1. The COVID-19 Lockdown of 2020 ($38 trillion)

The lockdown that occurred in 2020 as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic is now frequently referred to as the Great Lockdown. It’s easy to see why some people would refer to it this way. After all, the entire world was forced to basically shut down and sequester individuals inside their own homes for weeks on end. In some cases, it went on for months.

Even now, things are still not quite back to normal. Some businesses have ceased operations permanently and many governments are still incurring the costs associated with trying to keep their individual economies afloat.

Things don't look the same in a post-pandemic world as they did when this was nothing more than science fiction. Today, people who live in fear are less willing to get out and engage in events where there might be large groups of people, largely for fear that it will kick the entire thing off again.

So far, it has cost governments all over the world approximately $38 trillion. Without a doubt, that number will continue to rise for some time.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

Related Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with our most recent guides and articles on , freshly curated by our diligent editorial team for your immediate perusal.
As featured on:

Wealth Insight!
Subscribe to our Exclusive Newsletter

Dive into the world of wealth and extravagance with Money Inc! Discover stock tips, businesses, luxury items, and travel experiences curated for the affluent observer.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram