With the rise of cyber crime, the history of this problem that has affected internet users all over the world, is a subject that intrigues many of us. It can be traced back to the pre-internet era when data was stolen from computers and computer networks. With the introduction of the internet, the transfer of data became easier but criminals also found a new way to get their hands on information that they can use for their own benefit.
The evolution of cybercrime
As the internet has evolved, so has cybercrime. Initially, cybercrime involved simple hacks that made stealing information from local networks easier. However, as the technology advanced, the crimes became more sophisticated. Cyber crime existed prior to the first major attacks, which took place in the late 1980’s. As email grew in popularity, so did the scams and malware attacks. One of the classic scams involved an email from someone who pretended to be a prince, willing to share large amounts of money in exchange of an initial transfer requested from the victim. In the 90’s, web browsers became a target, since there were many them and they were vulnerable to attacks.
The viruses were delivered via internet connections when an infected website was visited. In some cases, the results were computers running slowly or pop-up ads that would clutter your screen or take you to porn websites. In the early 2000’s cyber crime started flourishing with the appearance of social media sites. People shared a great deal of information on their profiles (many still do), which put many at risk of identity theft. The information was used to get access to bank accounts, email accounts and to create credit cards. Nowadays, there is online “organized crime” and gangs that operate in this area used a wide range of methods to target everyone who uses the internet.
Brief summary of the history of cyber crime
It is difficult to point the exact origin of cyber crime and to say when did the first attack took place. However, it is possible to establish when was the first major attack on a network to start going through the evolution of cyber crime.
- In 1971, John Draper, a computer programmer that was mainly interested in phone networks,
found out that a whistle that was included as a prize in cereal boxes produced the same tones as telephone switching computers available at that time. He was able to create a “blue box” with the whistle that gave him the possibility of making free long distance phone calls. He published the instructions to make it and the cases of wire fraid increase substantially at the time.
- In 1973, an employee at a New York bank used a computer to embezzle more than $2 million dollars.
- The first electronic bulletin board system appeared online in 1978 and became the main method of communication for the cyber world. It enabled fast, free exchange of data, including tips for breaking into computer networks.
- In 1981, Ian Murphy or Captain Zap as his fans called him, became the first person to be convicted of a cyber crime. He broke into the AT&T network and modified the internal clock so that off-hours rates were applied at peak times. He got 2.5 years of probation and had to complete community service.
- In 1982, a 15 year old writes a virus known as Elk Cloner as a joke. This is one of the first viruses that went beyond its original operating system. It targeted Apple II operating systems and was spread via floppy disk.
- In 1983, hacking reached mainstream recognition with the release of War games, a movie that features a teenager who breaks into a government computer through a backdoor, nearlt causing a war.
- In 1986, the US Congress passes the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which made hacking and theft illegal.
- In 1988, Robert T. Morris jr., a student at Cornell University infected the Defense Department’s ARPANET with a self-replicating worm. ARPANET was the base for the Internet as we know it nowadays. The worm infected over 600,000 networked computers and Morris has to pay $10,000 and received 3 years probation.
- The first large-scale case of ransomware was reported in 1989. The virus appeared as a quiz about AIDS and once it was downloaded, the computer data would be held hostage. In the same year, US government and private sector data was stolen and sold to the KGB.
- In 1990, two cyber gangs known as the Legion of Doom and Masters of Deception, ebcame involved in an online feud. They blocked each other’s connection, hacked into computers and stole data. With the increase of cyber gangs, the FBI started cracking down on BBS’s promoting credit card theft and wire fraud.
- In 1993, Kevin Poulson was convicted for hacking into phone systems. He managed to take over all phone lines going into a radio station in Los Angeles to ensure that he could win a call-in contest. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison and was banned from using the internet.
- The World Wide Web is launched in 1994, which opened the doors for advanced hackers to set up their own websites.
- The appearance of Macro-viruses takes place in 1995. These viruses are written in computer languages that are embedded within applications. They run when applications like word processing or spreadsheet documents are opened and they can deliver malware easily. They are difficult to detect and are very likely to cause a computer infection. This is the reason why opening an unknown email is dangerous.
- In 1996, John Deutsch, the director of the CIA testifies to the US Congress that criminal gangs in the US were trying to hack government and corporate networks.
- In 1997, the FBI reports that more than 85% of companies in the United States have been hacked and that the majority of them are not even aware of it.
- The Melissa Virus is released in 1999 and it turns out to be one of the worst infections in the history of cyber crime. It also results in the first convictions for people writing malware. It took over email accounts, sending out mass- emails.
- In the year 2000, the amount of online attacks increases considerably and DDoS attacks are launched against major companies like eBay, Yahoo! and AOL.
- In 2002, Shadow Crew’s website was launched, this website offered information about hacking and gave users details on how to commit different crimes without being caught. It was online for 2 years before being shut down.
- In 2003, SQL Slammer infected SQL servers and launched a DDOS that had an impact on internet speeds all over the world. This worm spread very fast and, affecting over 75000 computers every 10 minutes.
- Since 2007, the cases of hacking and data theft have increased and every year, there are instances of malware infections, ransomware and other issues that affect the security of internet users all over the world. Many large companies have been affected and in many cases, the data of customers has been compromised.
- It is estimated that over 80% of online crime is committed by criminal organizations that run sophisticated operations. They operate like large companies with a hierarchy and strategies to launch and maintain their attacks. They are able to maintain their operations for a long time and can target users in every country. Even if they don’t have technical knowledge, these gangs know where to get the people who can develop the programs needed to run their scams. In addition, cyber criminals also take advantage of the Deep Dark Web and the anonymity that it offers.
How to protect yourself
Cyber crime can affect anyone, but there are ways in which you can protect yourself. Although there is no method that is 100% effective, you can enhance the security of your data using a VPN. This Originally, VPNs were intended as a security tool for government agencies and large companies. It protects your data with encryption, which keeps your you safe from attacks because it scrambles your data, making it unreadable. This will put off cyber criminals who may try to interfere your traffic. There are many VPN services available and it is possible to get affordable solutions to keep your data protected.