Digital technology provides connectivity and gives its users many valuable benefits. But at the same time, it provides a rich environment for criminal activity, ranging from vandalism to stolen identity to theft of classified government information, also coined as Hacking. Cyber-crime is the most lucrative crime in today’s digital age. It is just too easy and too rewarding, and the chances of being caught and punished are perceived as being too low. As a result the Cyber Crimes have grown exponentially. Lest have a brief look at the history of the Cyber-crimes.
The history of Cyber Crimes pre-dates invention of computers. In 1834 A pair of thieves hack the French Telegraph System and steal financial market information, effectively conducting the world’s first Cyber-attack. In 1870 A teenagers hired as a switchboard operator was able to disconnect and redirect calls and use the line for personal usage. In 1878 Two years after Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone, the Bell Telephone Company kicks a group of teenage boys off the telephone system in New York for repeatedly and intentionally misdirecting and disconnecting customer calls. In 1903 During John Fleming’s first public demonstration of Marconi’s “secure” wireless telegraphy technology, Nevil Maskelyne disrupts it by sending insulting Morse code messages discrediting the invention. During world War in 1939 Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman develop BOMBE, an electro-mechanical machine, while working as code breakers at Bletchley Park. It helped to break the German Enigma codes used by German soldiers to securely communicate with each other. In 1955 David Condon whistles his “Davy Crockett Cat” and “Canary Bird Call Flute” into his phone, testing a theory on how phone systems work. The system recognizes the secret code, assumes he is an employee, and connects him to a long-distance operator. She connects him to any phone number he requests for free.
After the invention of the computer in MIT in 1962, MIT had set up the first computer passwords, for student privacy and time limits. Student Allan Scherr makes a punch card to trick the computer into printing off all passwords and uses them to log in as other people after his time runs out. He also shares passwords with his friends, leading to the first computer “troll.” They hack into their teacher’s account and leave messages making fun of him. In 1969 an anonymous person installs a program on a computer at the University of Washington Computer Center. The inconspicuous program makes copies of itself (breeding like a rabbit) until the computer overloads and stops working. At the beginning of the 1970s, criminals regularly committed crimes via telephone lines. The perpetrators were called Phreakers and discovered that the telephone system in America functioned on the basis of certain tones. They were going to imitate these tones to make free calls. John Draper was a well-known Phreaker who worked on it daily; he toured America in his van and made use of public telephone systems to make free calls. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were inspired by this man, and even joined him. Of course they all ended up on the right path: Steve Jobs and Wozniak founded Apple, the well-known computer company.
Evolution of Cyber-crimes.
The history and evolution of Cyber-crime are easy to track and coincide with the evolution of the Internet itself. The first crimes were of course simple hacks to steak information from local networks. As the Internet became more established so too did the attacks. Because of the early and widespread adoption of computers and the Internet in the United States, most of the earliest victims and villains of Cyber-crime were Americans. As the computer became more and more popular, this attracted attention of the ordinary criminals. They started using computers to commit crimes.
The exact origin of Cyber-crime, the very first instance in which someone committed a crime across a computer network, is impossible to know.
1971 – John Draper, a phone phreak, discovers that a whistle given out as a prize in boxes of Cap’n Crunch Cereal produced the same tones as telephone switching computers of the time. Phone phreak is a term used to describe computer programmers obsessed with phone networks, the basis of modern day computer networking. He built a “blue box” with the whistle that would allow him to make free long distance phone calls, and then published instruction on how to make it. As a result the instances of wire fraud rose significantly.
1973 – A teller at a local New York bank used a computer to embezzle over $2 million dollars.
1978 – The first electronic bulletin board system came online and quickly became a preferred method of communication for the Cyber world. It allowed fast, free exchange of knowledge including tips and tricks for hacking into computer networks.
1981 – Ian Murphy, known as Captain Zap to his fans, was the first person convicted of a Cyber-crime. He hacked into the AT&T network and changed the internal clock to charge off-hours rates at peak times. He received 1,000 hours of community service and 2.5 years of probation, a mere slap on the wrist compared to today’s penalties, and was the inspiration for the movie Sneakers.
1982 – Elk Cloner, a virus, is written as a joke by a 15 year old kid. It is one of the first known viruses to leave its original operating system and spread in the “wild”. It attacked Apple II operating systems and spread by floppy disk.
1983 – The movie War Games is released and brings hacking to the mainstream. The movie depicts a teenage boy who hacks into a government computer system through a back door and nearly brings the world to World War III.
1986 – Congress passes the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, making hacking and theft illegal.
1988 – Robert T. Morris jr, a graduate student at Cornell, released a self-replicating worm onto the Defense Department’s APRANET. ARPANET is the precursor to the Internet as we know it today. The worm gets out of hand, infects more than 600,000 networked computers and lands Mr. Morris with a $10,000 fine and 3 years’ probation, another slap on the wrist.
1989 – The first large-scale case of Ransomware is reported. The virus posed as a quiz on the AIDS virus and, once downloaded, held computer data hostage for $500. At the same time another group is arrested stealing US government and private sector data and selling it to the KGB.
1990 – The Legion Of Doom and Masters Of Deception, two Cyber-based gangs, engage in online warfare. They actively block each other’s connections, hack into computers and steal data. These two groups were large-scale phone phreaks famous for numerous hacks into telephone mainframe infrastructure. The proliferation of the two groups, along with other Cyber gangs, led to an FBI sting cracking down on BBS’s promoting credit card theft and wire fraud.
1994 – The World Wide Web is launched, allowing black hat hackers to move their product info from the old bulletin board systems to their very own websites. A student in the UK uses the information to hack into Korea’s nuclear program, NASA and other US agencies using only a Commodore Amiga personal computer and a “blue boxing” program found online.
1995 – Macro-viruses appear. Macro-viruses are viruses written in computer languages embedded within applications. These macros run when the application is opened, such as word processing or spreadsheet documents, and are an easy way for hackers to deliver malware.
1996 – CIA Director John Deutsch testifies to Congress that foreign based organized crime rings were actively trying to hack US government and corporate networks. The US GAO announced that its files had been attacked by hackers at least 650,000 times, and that at least 60% of them were successful.
1997 – The FBI reports that over 85% of US companies had been hacked, and most don’t even know it. The Chaos Computer Club hack Quicken software and are able to make financial transfers without the bank or the account holder knowing about it.
1999 – The Melissa Virus is released. It becomes the most virulent computer infection to date and results in one of the first convictions for someone writing malware. The Melissa Virus was a macro-virus with the intention of taking over email accounts and sending out mass-mailings. The virus writer was accused of causing more than $80 million in damages to computer networks and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
2000 – The number and types of online attacks grows exponentially. Music retailer CD Universe is extorted for millions after its clients’ credit card information was published online. Denials of Service (DDoS) attacks are launched, numerous times, against AOL, Yahoo! Ebay and many others. Fake news causes shares of Emulex stock to crash nearly 50%. The “I Love You” Virus spreads across the Internet.
2002 – Shadow Crew’s website is launched. The website was a message board and forum for black hat hackers. Members could post, share and learn how to commit a multitude of Cyber-crimes and avoid capture. The site lasted for 2 years before being shut down by the Secret Service. 28 people were arrested in the US and 6 other countries.
2003 – SQL Slammer becomes the fastest spreading worm in history. It infected SQL servers and created a denial of service attack which affected speeds across the Internet for quite some time. In terms of infection speed, it spread across nearly 75,000 machines in less than 10 minutes.
Most Prominent Cyber Security Breaches till date.