How Cyber Attacks Have Evolved Throughout Time

Cyber Attacks

The phrase ‘cyber attack’ has been considered quite a modern invention. However, the word cyber attack happened over 50 years ago. Most internet users are aware of cyber attacks and know the tips and tricks to remove malware from their phones.  By examining how cyber attacks have evolved throughout time, we can better examine how to protect against them. But what was the first cyber attack, and what have been the ones that have significantly impacted the world since?

How have cyber attacks evolved throughout time?

The first cyber attack happened in 1970. It started as a joke between two friends, Bob Thomas and Ray Tomlinson. Thomas wrote some code for a program that could move between two computers and display a message on the screen. When it landed on Tomlinson’s screen, it read ‘I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!’ In response to this joke, Tomlinson wrote another code so that the virus could multiply itself and spread across more computers. This eliminated the ‘Creeper’ code and became known as the ‘reaper code.’ This was little more than an annoying joke. However, unfortunately, cyber attacks would evolve into something much more dangerous.

There were rumblings of hacking and cyber-attacks throughout the 80s- however, the most prominent one was the Morris Worm of 1988. This was the first-ever denial of service attack.

Every computer that came into contact with this virus slowed down incredibly. Because of this cyber attack, Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) were created to respond to future emergencies.

The 1990s were deemed the “Virus Era”. Computer viruses became a much more pervasive problem online. Viruses such as I LOVE YOU and Melissa infected tens of millions of computers, crashing numerous email systems and costing millions of dollars.

Melissa was created by David L. Smith in 1999. The virus was designed to spread via email in large volumes. Once the virus is activated, it multiplied and triggered emails to dozens of people in the recipient’s email contact list. This slowed down email systems,

ILOVEYOU is a computer worm that infected over ten million personal computers during the year 2000. It started spreading as an email message with the subject line “ILOVEYOU.” It had a fake ‘love letter’ attached. When this was clicked, it hacked the user’s email, and like Melissa, cost millions of dollars.

However, in 2004, the worst computer virus in history appeared on our computers. Mydoom caused estimated damage of $38 billion. At one point it was thought that Mydoom was responsible for 25% of all emails. It is still around today, generating 1% of all phishing emails. It has been considered the worst and most pervasive computer virus in history by far.

In 2007, the Zeus computer virus made its way onto the internet. It is estimated that this virus is behind 44% of all online phishing attempts. It breached 2,500 organizations overall, and 76,000 computers in 196 countries. This virus cost millions.

In 2010, Fifteen-year-old Michael “Mafia Boy” Calce attacked a series of websites with denial of service attacks, which shut down several major websites including CNN, Amazon, and Yahoo. This again cost these companies a massive amount of money.

In 2013 The Stuxnet worm targeted and attacked the Iranian nuclear program. The virus controlled the workings of it and ruined them beyond repair, and they never recovered.

How have we fought back against these attacks?

Unfortunately, most of the victims of these attacks had inadequate security and protection. In the 1980s, cyber security services began to be developed. This helped businesses protect against scammers and cyber attacks. But what did singular web users do?

Antivirus and Firewalls

In 1987, the first antivirus products were released.  These were Ultimate Virus Killer, an early version of NOD antivirus, and VirusScan. This antivirus software was made up of simple scanners that detected these viruses and stopped web users from clicking on them. Like real anti-virus protection, many of these scanners included ‘immunizers.’  These modified their programs to make computer viruses think the system was already compromised and make the computer virus not attack them. Firewalls were also invented in the 1980s, which provided a barrier between the computer and scanned information coming in, to try and protect against computer viruses.

By taking the necessary steps to protect yourself online and keeping up with how cyber attacks will evolve, you can keep yourself safe.

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