Cyberattacks appear to be influential headlines recently. Be it a furtive group hacking computers for ‘fun’ or charged government agencies trying to purloin confidential information, the Internet landscape has been changed into a binary battlefield. If you want to learn more about this battlefield, here is a list of the biggest cyberattacks in history.
Robert Tappan Morris and the Morris Worm (1988)
For the first one of our list, we must go back to the year 1988. Creator of the first computer worm transferred through the Internet, Morris, a student at Cornell University in the USA, claimed his progeny did not intend to damage but was made with the innocent goal to determine the immensity of cyberspace.
Things went pear-shaped when the worm faced a crucial mistake and changed into a virus that reproduced quickly and began contaminating other computers leading to a denial of service. The harm? 6000 computers were seemingly infected resulting in an estimated $10-$100 million dollars in repair bills.
While this event could be highlighted as being an unlucky accident, it undoubtedly played a role in inspiring the disastrous distributed denial-of-service type of cyberattacks (DDoS attacks) we see today.
MafiaBoy causes $1 billion in damages (2000)
Another 15-year-old that brought about harm in cyberspace was Michael Calce a.k.a. MafiaBoy. In 2000, Calce, now 25, was just a Canadian high school student when made up his mind to launch a DDoS attack on a number of renowned commercial websites such as Amazon, CNN, eBay, and Yahoo, which proved to be one of the biggest cyber attacks in history! An industry expert estimated the attacks led to a $US1.2-billion-dollar damage bill.
He was later arrested. Because he was still a teenager, Calce was condemned in 2001 to eight months in open custody, meaning his movements and actions would be limited. His online access was also restricted by the court.
Google China hit by a cyberattack (2009)
When Google’s Chinese headquarters discovered a security infringement in mid-December, it opened up a whole can of worms compromising the Chinese government.
Hackers had gotten access to several of Google’s corporate servers and intellectual property was stolen.
In a blog, Google said it has “documents to prove that a leading goal of the attackers was gaining access to the Gmail accounts of Chinse human rights activists”. They detected many Gmail accounts belonging to users from the US, China, and Europe had been frequently accessed without permission. Those emails belonged to supporters of human rights in China.
All eyes were attracted to the Chinse government, which has been charged with blatantly ignoring human rights for years.
Google came into the Chinese market with www.google.cn in 2006 and surrendered to China’s strict Internet censorship rules. The cyberattacks in December 2009 led to the company’s re-assess of its business in the country.
In March 2010, Google changed the location of its servers for google.cn to Hong Kong so as to avoid China’s Internet filtering policy.
Teen hacks NASA and US Defense Department
The year was 1999. Jonathan James was 15 at the time but what he did that year guaranteed him a place in the hacker’s hall of fame.
James had decided to infiltrate the computers of a US Department of Defense division and installed a ‘backdoor’ on its servers. This enabled him to obstruct thousands of internal emails from various government organizations including ones involving usernames and passwords for different military computers.
Utilizing the stolen data, James was able to steal a piece of NASA software which cost the space exploration agency $41,000 as systems were in a closure state for three weeks.
According to NASA, “the software [estimated to be worth $1.7 million] backed the International Space Station’s physical environment, including control of the temperature and moisture within the living space.”
James was later arrested but received a light sentence because of his young age. He committed suicide in 2008 after he was charged with colluding with other hackers to steal credit card information. James rejected the accusation in his suicide letter.
Phone lines blocked to win Porsche (1995)
The next one on our list of biggest cyberattacks in history was committed by someone who just wanted to win a car. Kevin Poulsen is well-known for his work in gaining unauthorized access to the Los Angeles phone system in an attempt to win a Ferrari in a radio competition.
LA KIIS FM was giving a Porsche 944 S2 to the 102nd caller. Poulsen secured his success as he took control of the phone network and efficiently blocked incoming calls to the radio station’s number.
He won the Porsche but he was arrested and condemned to five years in prison.
Hacker targets Scientology (2008)
In January 2008, a New Jersey juvenile, as well as a gang of hackers, started a DDoS attack that disabled the Church of Scientology website for several days. The group is nicknamed Anonymous and is strongly against ‘religion’.
Dmitriy Guzner, who was 19 years old, was accused and convicted of the DDoS attack. The maximum punishment was 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine but he was finally condemned to two years of probation and was asked to pay the Church of Scientology $37,500. A second man has also been charged for the attack.
Solar Sunrise (1998)
Originally believed to have been the attempts of Iraqi agents, a systematic cyberattack was started in the US which took control of over 500 government and private computer systems. The hackers were abusing computers running on the Sun Solaris operating system, so these attacks were called ‘Solar Sunrise’.
The Melissa virus (1999)
This incident in our list of biggest cyberattacks in history was the result of a virus that popularized anti-virus software. It was a very easy-to-make virus that resulted in costing $80 million in damages.
The Melissa virus would contaminate Microsoft Word documents and automatically distribute itself as an attachment through email. It would send to the first 50 names listed in an infected computer’s Outlook email address box.
The creator of Melissa, David Smith, said he did not aim for the virus to harm computers but was still apprehended and condemned to 20 months in prison.
Incidentally, anti-virus software sales performed exceptionally well that year.
Internet attacked (2002)
In 2002, a cyberattack aimed directly at all 13 domain name system’s root servers in the US completely overwhelmed the Internet. It was a DDoS attack that persisted for one hour. While it is not a long time, it was the scale of the attack that was most disturbing. That’s why it was one of the biggest cyberattacks in history.
At that time, US Federal authorities delineated the attack as the largest and most convoluted in history.
Internet servers were seriously strained for one hour although users probably didn’t experience any undesirable effects. But if the attacks continued any longer, it would have brought the Internet to a halt.
Hacker steals tens of millions of credit card details (2009)
Albert Gonzales, a hacker from Miami, was accountable for one of the greatest fraud cases and one of the biggest cyber attacks in history (particularly in the U.S).
Gonzales was accountable for stealing tens of millions of credit card and debit card numbers from over 250 financial institutions. He had hacked the payment card network of companies including the 7-Eleven convenience store chain.
Encountering at least three separate cases associated with hacking in three states, Gonzales confessed to his crime in December.
Though not all people are victims of cyberattacks, they are still in danger. Crimes by computer are different, and they don’t always happen behind the computer, but they are performed by a computer. The hackers recognized range from 12 years young to 67 years old.
The hacker could live three continents away from its victim, and they wouldn’t even understand they were being hacked. Crimes done behind the computer are the 21st-century plight. With the technology growing, criminals don’t have to steal from banks, nor do they have to be outside to commit any crime. They have everything they need on their lap. Their weapons aren’t guns anymore; they attack with mouse cursors and passwords. That’s why it’s essential to learn about these biggest cyberattacks in history as cautionary tales.