Cybercrime knows no limits.
On February 8, 2000, the New York Times
reported what appears to have been the largest-ever coordinated assault
on major commercial Web sites. Amazon.com, eBay.com, Buy.com and CNN.com
were temporarily crippled when hackers signaled computers around the world
to barrage these sites with empty data. But this event is just the latest
in what is rapidly becoming an international cybercrime epidemic.
From vandalism to theft to cyberterrorism, we
can trace the mounting movement of cybercrime over the past several decades:
John Draper, a.k.a. "Cap'n Crunch," discovers that the toy whistle in
a box of Cap'n Crunch Cereal can exactly match the frequency of AT&T's
phone network. Thanks to Draper, thousands can "reach out and touch" that
long-distance someone, for free.
- Ian Murphy, a.k.a. "Captain Zap," receives
the dubious honor of "first felon ever convicted of a computer crime."
AT&T bares the brunt once again, as Murphy breaks into the company's
computers and changes the internal billing clock so that people receive
discounted rates during normal business hours.
- Murphy's exploits inspire the movie Sneakers
The movie War Games romanticises hackers and cybercrime.
First issue of Phrack is published -- the original underground
- Pakistani Brain, the oldest virus created
under unauthorised circumstances, is discovered to infect IBM computers.
- Congress enacts the Federal Computer Fraud
and Abuse Act, which makes it illegal to access federal computers or
traffic-in computer passwords without proper authorisation.
The Jerusalem virus is detected. Designed to delete infected files on
Friday the thirteenth, the Jerusalem virus is one of the first file-infecting
- Robert Morris, the son of a high-ranking scientist
at the US National Computer Security Center, releases the first Internet
worm and crashes over 6,000 Net-linked computers, crippling the Internet.
Though Morris claims his worm was the result of a programming mistake,
he's sentenced to three months probation and charged with a $10,000
- Kevin Mitnick serves a year in jail for breaking
into the Digital Equipment Company's computer network.
- Cybercriminal Dark Avenger authors Avenger.1808,
a program that spreads through systems unnoticed, overwriting data onto
a system's hard drive.
- WDEF, a highly prolific Mac virus that corrupts
hard drive and desktop files, is launched.
- Phrack #24 distributes a confidential
document, hacked from Bell South.
- Approximately 30 viruses are discovered.
- Start of two-year warfare between rival hacker
groups, Legion of Doom and Masters of Deception. These groups jam phone
lines and monitor calls in an attempt to trespass into each other's
- Kevin Poulsen is arrested after taking over
all the phone lines going into an L.A. radio station in order to win
give-away prizes such as a Porsche.
- Birth of SPAM viruses (Stealth, Polymorphic,
Armored and Multipartite). For virus definitions click
- Michelangelo is discovered. Named after the
famous painter, the PC-striking virus is intended to destroy hard drives
on its namesake's birthday, March 6.
- Dark Avenger creates MtE, a product that enables
other viruses to morph in over 4,000,000,000 different forms, making
detection and deletion especially difficult.
- Cybercriminals Dark Angel and Nowhere Man
create a "point and click" virus-authoring application, making virus
creation easier and accessible for the less-than-genius programmer.
- By the end of 1991, over 1,000 viruses exist
in the wild.
- Dark Avenger launches Commander Bomber, an
elusive, form-changing virus that lurks undetected in memory and affects
COM files when activated.
- A minor is arrested in Washington, D.C., for
creating the SatanBug virus. Some forms of this virus are capable of
- Release of Monkey, a dangerous virus that
can wipe out a hard drive upon removal.
- Vladimir Levin, a student and mastermind behind
a criminal Russian hacker gang, breaks into Citibank's network and transfers
$10 million dollars into his accounts. Levin is later arrested in London.
- Mark Abene, a.k.a. "Phiber Optik," a leader
of the Masters of Deception gang, is jailed for tampering with phone
lines. Upon his release, New York Magazine names him one of the
city's 100 smartest people.
- Black Baron, a member of the Association of
Really Cruel Viruses, launches Pathogen, a highly polymorphic virus
that can rewrite portions of a hard drive on a specific date and time.
He's later jailed by Scotland Yard.
Kevin Mitnick is arrested again and charged by the FBI with stealing 20,000
credit card numbers.
Concept, the first macro virus capable of affecting both Macs and PCs,
becomes the most common virus in the world. Spread through email attachments,
macro viruses are annoying, though usually harmless.
- The Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc), a hacker group
of dubious scruples, develops Back Orifice, a program in the form of
a Trojan horse or an Active X control that can allow total remote access
to Windows NT/2000 machines.
- The Asian AutoStart worm is released -- a
type of virus that self replicates through disk and memory space.
- Numerous criminal hacks are made on U.S. military
and Department of Defense networks.
- New York Times Web site is vandalised.
- Attorney General Janet Reno announces the
formation of the US National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) to
fight cybercrime and sabotage of U.S. technological infrastructures.
- Activist hacker group Electronic Disturbance
Theater urges political activists to engage in "electronic civil disobedience"
by staging virtual sit-ins against "oppressors" such as the Mexican
and U.S. governments. (In a virtual sit-in, activists plant their time-stamped,
virtual presence -- often marked by a happy face -- on a target's Web
- Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Michael
Gallagher breaks into the voice mail system at Chiquita Fruits. The
Enquirer publishes Chiquita's illegal activities and later has
to make public amends.
- A cybercriminal convinces an unsuspecting
AOL staff to grant access to ACLU's Web site, and subsequently wipes
out the site.
- cDc member Dildog develops and releases BO2k,
an updated and more powerful version of Back Orifice.
- Serbian and Kosovar hackers wage wars on each
other's Web sites.
- Two Chinese cybercriminals are sentenced to
death in China for hacking into a bank and transferring the equivalent
of $87,000 into their accounts.
- A host of new virus and Trojan horses spread
rampantly, often feeding off email mailing lists:
- Melissa -- One of the fastest spreading
macro viruses in history, variations of Melissa can modify documents
or send out victim's confidential information. Engineered by David
Smith of New Jersey, the virus caused over $80 million in damage.
- Chernobyl -- When activated, overwrites
most data on the hard drive.
- Thursday -- On a specific date, can delete
all files from the root of the "C:" drive and its subdirectories.
- Bubble Boy -- Can spread through email
script without the victim ever opening an infected attachment.
- Black Hand and Serbian Angel hacker groups
threaten to damage NATO computers in retaliation for war against Serbs.
- The White House site is defaced by red graffiti
saying, "Hacker wuz Here."
- The North American Electric Reliability Council
(NERC) attempts to conduct Y2K compliance tests on over 500 major utilities;
however, their efforts are marred by criminal hacker penetration.
- A criminal hacker group called "phreak.nl"
damages U.S. sites including NASA and the National Defense University.
The vandals spread graffiti stating they're involved in a game called,
fittingly, "Hack the Planet."
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