Cyber security is a complex landscape with numerous players working tirelessly to stop hackers from reaching their goals. On the other side of the coin, since as early as the 1970s, hackers have been innovating exploitation methods to evolve their tactics with advances in technology and security. Hackers and the rise of cyber security attack methods equally captivate the public and plague governments and companies.
Let’s take a look at three bad actors :
In 1996, Matthew Bevan and Richard Pryce were a team of British hackers who attacked military networks, including Griffiss Air Force Base, the Defense Information System Agency, and the Korean Atomic Research Institute (KARI). They dumped KARI research onto American military systems, claiming they were looking to prove a UFO conspiracy theory. Otherworldly intent or not, they demonstrated that even highly secure military networks are vulnerable.
In February 2000, 15-year-old Michael Calce managed to take over networks of university computers. He leveraged their collective power to disrupt the top search engine at the time: Yahoo. Within a week, he had also taken down Dell, eBay, CNN, and Amazon using a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that crashed corporate servers and their customer-facing websites.
In 2005, Jeanson James Ancheta was experimenting with how software-based robots could infect and ultimately control computer systems. With a series of large-scale “botnets,” he compromised over 400,000 computers. Ancheta then rented these machines out to advertising companies, who paid him to directly install bots or adware on vast systems of users without their consent. For his crime, Ancheta was sentenced to 57 months in prison. Historically unique, this was the first time a hacker was sent to jail for the use of a botnet attack.
Seeing that a teen could swiftly sideline titans of the tech world, many started to wonder if any online data could be secure. In the aftermath of Calce’s attack, cybercrime began to develop into a larger government priority with dedicated task forces set up across agencies. Beyond the government, Calce’s hijinks impacted millions of users’ daily lives and the bottom lines of large businesses and their investors.
By looking at these bad actors from the past, we’re better able to understand risk today. Thinking back to these attacks in 1986, 2000, or 2005– a trend across all 3 cases is the lack of preparation on the part of the impacted organization. It’s not easy to presage future risk, but it’s a good reminder that we need to deter or deny hackers by actively mitigating vulnerabilities and hardening the attack surface.
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