A short history of hacks, worms and cyberterror

Phreakers and phishers, cybercrooks and criminals have strutted their stuff over the Internet
  • Mari Keefe (Computerworld (US))
  • 27 April, 2009 09:56

1964

AT&T begins crackdown on "phreakers," who use tone generators to make free phone calls. By 1970, it has achieved 200 convictions.

1971_draper

1978

Engineers at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center design a computer worm, a short program that searches a network for underused processors. Though built to improve computer efficiency, it is the genesis of the destructive, modern worm.

1983

The FBI busts young hackers known as the 414s, who use an Apple II+ and a modem to break into 60 computer systems, including one at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

1986

"The Brain," one of the first PC viruses, is released in Pakistan.

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1994

30-year-old Russian Vladimir Levin leads a group of hackers who break into Citibank's systems and steal millions of dollars. Levin is later sentenced to three years in prison.

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1996

Hackers alter Web sites of the U.S. Department of Justice in August, the CIA in October and the U.S. Air Force in December. The GAO reports that hackers attempted to break into Defense Department computer files 250,000 times in 1995 alone. About 65% of the attempts were successful, according to the report.

1998

The Solar Sunrise attacks exploit well-known vulnerabilities in Sun's Solaris operating system to implant sniffer programs in more than 500 military, government and private-sector computer systems. Investigators originally suspect operatives in Iraq, but later learn that two California teenagers were responsible.

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2000

Russian hackers penetrate Microsoft Corp.

The ILOVEYOU worm infects millions of computers worldwide in a few hours.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks knock Amazon.com, Yahoo and eBay offline. The attacks occur when hackers co-opt University of California, Santa Barbara, computers to flood the target sites with traffic.

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2002

The Klez worm sends copies of itself to all of the e-mail addresses in its victims' directories. It overwrites files and creates hidden copies of the originals. It's huge in scope but the monetary damage it causes is small.

2003

The Slammer worm infects hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide in less than three hours.

A Russsian hacker group known as the Hang-Up Team builds a Web site featuring administrative tools for attacking U.S. financial institutions.

2004

North Korea claims to have trained 500 hackers to crack computer systems in South Korea and Japan and their allies.

The U.S. Secret Service seizes control of the Shadowcrew Web site and arrests 28 people in eight states and six countries. Allegations include conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and exposing confidential Secret Service documents.

The My Doom worm uses psychological tricks to persuade recipients to open attachments containing a virus.

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2007

Estonia suffers a massive DDoS attack that knocks out government and banking networks.

A spear-phishing incident at the Office of the Secretary of Defense compromises sensitive U.S. defense information.

The United Nations Web site is hacked by Turkish hacker Kerem125.

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2009

A 10-month cyberespionage investigation of the GhostNet finds that 1,295 computers in 103 countries have been spied on, with circumstantial evidence pointing to China. GhostNet uses a malicious software program called gh0st RAT (remote-access tool) to steal sensitive documents and control webcams in infected computers.

Hackers break into Defense Department computers and download terabytes of data containing design information about the Joint Strike Fighter project, a $300 billion initiative to develop a stealth fighter plane.