Ever wonder how badly our information highway could be damaged from a security breach? Internet threats are always evolving, but here are five cybersecurity disasters from the past that hint at what we might face later on:
In 1988, a graduate student designed a self-replicating worm and sent it forth to determine the “size of the internet.” His creation did its job too well and replicated with a vengeance, causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage to thousands of computers and inspiring the creation of CERT, or the Computer Emergency Response Team. Though he claimed the damage was accidental, Morris was charged with Computer Fraud and fined $10,000.
In 1999, a computer virus named “Melissa” ( supposedly after a stripper), was launched from a stolen AOL account nested in a list of passwords to members-only pornography sites posted on an adult message board. One version of the virus would email itself to the first 40 email addresses it found in Microsoft Outlook. Eventually the virus clogged email traffic to the point that email servers at such places as Microsoft and Lockheed Martin were shut down. Melissa and her variants infected over one million personal computers and caused an estimated 80 million dollars’ worth of damage.
The UFO Hacker
Gary McKinnon, a Scots systems administrator and hacker, achieved the “biggest military hack” in history according to U.S. Prosecutors. McKinnon claimed he was looking for evidence of UFO cover-ups by the U.S. Government when he broke in to 97 NASA computers between 2001 and 2002. While he was there, he deleted source files that caused several hundred NASA computers to shut down during the added workload on 9/11. He erased NASA logs, copied key information onto his own hard drive and then left cryptic graffiti on the system using the handle “Solo”. Officials estimated the damage to be around $700, 000
Wikileaks is now world-famous, but the organization has been around since 2006. It’s been suggested that Wikileaks developed its protocol while spying on Chinese hackers on the Tor Network, a volunteer system of network servers that wash the origin of internet packets until they are virtually “anonymous.” While it is not their only published exploit; the Iraq War Diaries document collection, published October 2010, was considered by the Pentagon to be largest intelligence leak in U.S. military history.
The Aurora Hack
Operation Aurora was a persistent attack on U.S. information-dependent resources
that began and continued throughout 2009. The goal of the attacks was to locate and edit the source code of important American business, computer and government resources. First to publicize the attack was Google, who found their source code had been compromised and announced their suspicion that the attacks were originating from China.
The Chinese government reacted to the accusations by claiming that it was the victim of an anti-Chinese conspiracy.
Other targets included Adobe Systems, Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman, Morgan Stanley and Dow Chemical.
The Aurora Hack now considered to be the largest cyberattack on American information assets to date.