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Famous Cybercrimes Over The Last 35 Years
  • IT

Data breaches seem to be an everyday occurrence nowadays, but what about before high-speed internet? Were cybercrimes less frequent, or did we just hear about them less?

Today, we’re taking a look back at the past 35 years in cybercrimes.

From teenage hackers causing major data breaches to a radio station exploit in order to win a Porche, here are some of the more famous cybercrimes from 1984 to today.

1984

Journalists Steve Gold and Robert Schifreen hacked into Britain’s Prestal Viewdata service. Once in, they were able to access the personal message box of Prince Philip.

The Prince Phillip incident was part of an attempt to shock BT (formerly British Telecom) into action after they showed no interest in bolstering the security of their system. In an interview Schifreen said he, “came across a Prestel ID by accident – I was testing a modem and just typed random numbers, basically. That got me into a BT internal Prestel page containing the phone numbers of the dev mainframes.”

Gold and Schifreen were charged and convicted of offenses under the Forgery & Counterfeiting Act, but their conviction was successfully overturned on appeal. This incident led to the birth of the UK’s first computer crime law.

1988

Robert Morris, the son of a National Security Agency computer security expert, wrote 99 lines of code that he released into the internet. The Morris Worm quickly began replicating and infecting computers around the country.

This was one of the first computer worms distributed on the internet to gain significant media attention. Morris was the first felon convicted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

1995

Kevin Poulsen committed one of the more humorous cybercrimes we’ve discovered.

A Los Angeles radio station ran a competition for the 102nd caller to win a new Porsche. Poulsen guaranteed his success by taking control of the station’s phone lines so he would be the 102nd caller. He was eventually caught and sentenced to 5 years in prison.

2000

Michael Calce committed one of the more famous cybercrimes when he was just a teenager. Calce released a denial of service (DDoS) attack, known as MafiaBoy, on a number of high-profile sites including Amazon, CNN, and Yahoo. It was estimated that the attack resulted in $1.2 billion dollars of damage.

Since he was a minor, Calce was sentenced to 8 months in open custody which meant his movements and actions were restricted.

2005

Brothers Steven Stephens and Bartholomew Stephens ran a cyber-scam in an attempt to profit off of Hurricane Katrina.

The brothers set up a fake Salvation Army website a week after Katrina hit which stated that proceeds would benefit those impacted by the hurricane. They had a donation link connected to fake PayPal accounts that were linked back to their personal accounts.

Steven Stephens and Bartholomew Stephens collected a total of $48,000 before their accounts were frozen based on fraud reports. The two brothers were convicted of multiple accounts for wire fraud and identity theft and sentenced to prison.

2008

Dmitriy Guzner, along with a number of other members of the hacker group Anonymous, launched a DDoS attack against the Church of Scientology’s web presence.

Their main website was down for 24 hours before the church moved its servers to an outside hosting source. Gunzer kept up the attacks for at least 12 days.

The attack was meant as an anti-Scientology protest because the group was upset by the church’s attempts to suppress a leaked video of Tom Cruise making enthusiastic claims about the religion. Guzner was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty.

2011

In 2011 Epsilon, one of the largest permission-based email marketing companies suffered a major breach.

Over 60 million users had their names and email addresses stolen, including those of clients like Walgreens, BestBuy, and Capital One. The breach occurred as a result of an unauthorized entry, but it was determined that no personally identifiable information was stolen.

2012

Red October was a high-level cyber-espionage campaign discovered in 2012. It targeted specific organizations to gain sensitive documents including geopolitical intelligence, access classified computer systems, and data from personal mobile devices and network equipment.

Kaspersky Lab estimated that over 7,000 Gigabytes of data was stolen. Chinese hackers and Russian programmers created the exploit, but the country of origin was not determined.

2015

Ashley Madison, a dating website for people already in a relationship seeking other companionship, was the target of a cyber-attack that turned the business and many families on their heads.

A group called the “Impact Team” hacked the website and threatened to release usernames and personally identifying information of its users if Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison, did not immediately shut down.

Impact Team leaked more than 25 Gigabytes of company data to the public. They stated that they had, “… explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data…too bad for ALM, you promised secrecy but didn’t deliver.” Avid Life Media agreed to settle two dozen lawsuits as a result of the breach for $11.2 million.

2018

One of the biggest recent cyber-attacks, and probably the most talked about, was the Facebook leak. Authorities confirmed that at least 50 million users’ data was at risk after attackers found a vulnerability.

The attackers introduced three bugs that allowed them to log in to other accounts. This attack, along with several others led to the increased pressure on companies securing user data, and being more open with how they were using the data.

The past 35 years have brought new forms of cybercrimes with new inventions and discoveries in technology. We can be assured that hackers will keep finding new ways to steal important information. Therefore, it is important to stay educated on current cybersecurity policies and technologies.