Cyber attacks and cyber crime has steadily increased in both intensity and frequency over the last few years. It is fair to say things have been heading this way for a long time though. With the first attack taking place as early as 1988.
To show how cyber attackers, much like technology, has moved with the times and evolved, we will look at the history of cyber attacks.
The Morris Worm – November 2nd, 1988
The Morris Worm is widely regarded as the first fully recognised worm to attack and affect the internet. It spread throughout computers, most of which were located in the United States and utilised weaknesses within the UNIX system called Noun 1 and regularly multiplied itself.
Although it was very much in the early days of cyber attacks, the Morris Worm was able to slow down computers so that they essentially became useless. It was developed by Robert Tapan Morris, who claims he was just trying to use it to determine the size of the internet. As a result though, he became the first individual to be convicted using the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
December 2006 – NASA Blocked Emails Consisting Of Attachments
Not an actual attack as such, but in December of 2006, NASA had to block all emails with attachments when shuttles were due to be launched, because they feared they might get hacked.
It was reported in Business Week that some of the pans for future space launches had been intercepted by foreign intruders of unknown origin.
April 2007 – Estonian Denial of Service Attack
The networks used by the Estonian government were apparently harassed by unknown foreign intruders using a denial of service attack. This followed the country’s disagreement with neighbouring Russia over a war memorial being removed.
Online banking and many government online services were disrupted temporarily. These particular attacks could be considered more like cyber-based riots than actual damaging attacks. Estonia responded quickly and had relaunched many of its services within hours of the attacks, with others coming back online in a few days.
June 2007 – US Secretary of Defence Unclassified Email Account Hack
As part of an ongoing series of large-scale attacks on Pentagon-related networks, the US Secretary of Defence had their unclassified email account hacked.
October 2007 – Chinese Data Theft
According to the Ministry of State Security in China, Taiwanese and American hackers were stealing data from key areas in the country. There was a survey conducted the previous year by the CASIC which showed spyware were in computers of corporate leaders and classified governmental departments.
Summer 2008 – Republican and Democrat Presidential Campaign Hack
Both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns were hacked and downloaded in Summer 2008.
August 2008 – Georgia Computer Network Hacks
During a time Georgia was in conflict with Russia, computer networks in the country were hacked. Graffiti was left on various governmental websites.
Although this caused little to no disruption of Georgian services, it did put significant pressure on the government and was believed to have been coordinated in-line with military actions taken by Russia.
January 2009 – Israel Internet Infrastructure
In January of 2009 when the Israeli were conducting military offensives on the Gaza Strip, hackers launched an attack on the country’s internet infrastructure. It is believed that around 5,000,000 computers were used in the attack which concentrated on governmental websites.
According to Israeli governmental officials, the attack was paid for by either Hezbollah or Hamas and carried out by a former Soviet State-based criminal organisation.
January 2010 – Iranian Cyber Army
In January of 2010, Baidu – a popular search engine used in China was targeted by a group of cyber criminals calling themselves the Iranian Cyber Army. The attack caused users of the site to be redirected to a web page that displayed a political message relating to Iran.
The same group hacked Twitter in the December promoting a similar message.
October 2010 – Stuxnet Discovery
Stuxnet was a sophisticated malware that had apparently been developed to cause interference with the industrial control systems of Siemens. The malware was discovered in Indonesia, Iran and some other places. It was thought that the malware was a form of governmental cyber weapon designed to meddle with the nuclear programme in Iran.
January 2011 – Canadian Government Attack
In January of 2011, it was reported by the Canadian Government that it had suffered a major cyber attack on many of its agencies. This included Development Canada and Defence Research. It also forced the Treasury Board and Finance Department, the two main economic agencies in the country, to disconnect temporarily from the internet.
July 2011 – Defence Contractor Department of Defence Files Hack
The Department of Defence made an announcement in July 2011 of the country’s plans towards cyber attacks. The US Deputy Secretary of Defence made reference to the fact that a hack that involved the theft of 24,000 DoD files were stolen from a defence contractor.
October 2012 – Red October
In October 2012, Kasperky, the Russian internet security software firm discovered that there had been a global cyber attack, named Red October in operation since 2007 at the very least.
Hackers had been gathering information using vulnerable points in Microsoft Excel and Word. Although North America and Western European countries suffered from the attack, it seems as if the main targets were Central Asia, former USSR members and Eastern European countries.
This virus was used to collect sensitive information from various places such as military installations, research firms, government agencies, nuclear and other vital infrastructures.
March 2013 – South Korean Finance and YTN Attacks
In March 2013, networks used by the South Korean television broadcasting agency YTN and financial institutions were infected in a similar way to previous cyber attacks reportedly conducted by North Korea.
2013 – Tumblr Data Breach
Around 65 million (yes, that many) Tumblr emails and passwords were stolen and then put up on a deep web black market website.
2014 – October – White House Computer Hack
In October, the computer system used by the White House was hacked, and according to the secret service and FBI, among others, it was categorised as being one of the most sophisticated attacks launched against a US governmental system ever.
2014, November 24th – Sony Pictures Hack
In a direct response to the release of the controversial comedy film The Interview, a group calling themselves Guardian of Peace hacked Sony Pictures.
2017 – May WannaCry Ransomware Attack
On Friday the 12th of May in 2017, the now infamous WannaCry Ransomware attack was started and has since been referred to as unprecedented with regards to its scale, as it affected over 230,000 computers and systems throughout 150 different countries, including the
NHS systems in the UK.