Tracing the evolution of cyberattacks.

Data breach. Ransomware. Phishing attack. Terms like these continue to make the news headlines almost daily. From worms to state-sponsored targeted attacks, cybercriminals continue to evolve their attack techniques, making it a challenge for organizations to catch potential breaches. 

While attack techniques continue to evolve, so should the protective measures organizations implement; and since knowledge is power, the best way to prepare for future attacks is by studying past attack techniques. 

Here’s an infographic on the history of cyberattacks, from the first known computer virus up to more current, prominent attacks you're probably familiar with.

Key events in the history of cyberattacks:

 

The first computer virus, called the "Creeper" and designed by Bob Thomas, could replicate itself and display the message "I'm the creeper, catch me if you can!" in infected systems.

Cornell graduate student Robert Morris designed a worm as part of a research project. However, due to an error in the code, the worm infected devices multiple times, affecting about 6,000 of the 60,000 servers powering the internet at that time. This was the first recorded distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) attack. The U.S. Department of Defense created the first computer emergency response team (CERT) following the incident.

Melissa was a computer virus created by David L. Smith. The virus was designed to spread via email in huge volumes using social engineering techniques. Once activated, the virus multiplied and triggered emails to dozens of people in the recipient's email contact list.

Fifteen-year-old Michael "Mafia Boy" Calce carried out a series of denial of service (DoS) attacks, which shut down several major websites including CNN, Dell, Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, and E-Trade. 

The Stuxnet worm was developed to target the Iranian nuclear program. The virus controlled the workings of the centrifuges and damaged them beyond repair. The plant was unable to fully recover and decommissioned around 20 percent of its centrifuges after the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attack.

Yahoo suffered a large-scale data breach affecting the personal details, passwords, and security answers of three billion users. Since Yahoo did not report the breach until 2016, it was fined $35 million. 

Attackers exploited Equifax's website application vulnerability, which exposed the personally identifiable information and credit card data of 143 million users. 

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