World’s First Major Cyberattack Launched by Cornell Student in New York
Today, cyberattacks are nothing but in 1988 nobody knew what one was - until a student at Upstate New York's Cornell University unleashed a beast.
Most people say that the very first cybersecurity attack happened at the hands of Cornell University Robert Morris, but there are others who will remain firm in their stance that it actually happened about 200 years ago and involved the semaphore system which was made of chains of towers with moveable wooden arms. Two brothers were able to hack into the semaphore system and figured out how to use it for their own personal gain.
However, if we are talking about modern-day technology and the first cyber attack in terms of what we know it to be today, that really did happen in 1988.
In 1988, the majority of the world didn't even know about the World Wide Web. Mostly only those who knew about the internet domain were academic researchers and that is because the World Wide Web had not yet been debuted to the world and wouldn't be for another year.
The morning of November 3, 1988, those with access to the Internet woke to discover it had changed and that change would remain forever because someone the night before had unleased a malevolent computer program.
What came next was the infection of thousands of computers which had become clogged with copies of a worm. A worm is a program that spreads from one computer to another very similar to a biological infection.
The culprit behind the worm being unleashed was a curious Cornell University graduate student named Robert Morris, who most believe never intended to cause so much trouble but was rather likely just curious about what would happen if a worm were to be released.
Unfortunately for Morris, he would go down in history not only for being the guy who changed the way people viewed the need for Internet security but also for being one of the first persons in America to be prosecuted and convicted on the federal level under an anti-hacking statute that had been released by Congress only a few years prior.
Thanks to the worm, called the Morris Worm, software vendors had to take a better look at the security of their products. Those who work in IT securities also have Morris to thank because had he not released his worm, it may have taken longer for the Internet securities industry to launch.
The conviction of three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and a fine of $10.050 didn't stop Morris. Morris would go on to become an entrepreneur, computer scientist, and investor, and, his name will forever live in history as the first modern-day launcher of a cyberattack.