Over a million developers have joined DZone.

A Short History of Computer Security Threats

DZone's Guide to

A Short History of Computer Security Threats

· Performance Zone ·
Free Resource

Built by operators for operators, the Sensu monitoring event pipeline empowers businesses to automate their monitoring workflows and gain deep visibility into their multi-cloud environments. Get started for free today.

Ever since people first connected their computers to the Internet, there have been people hacking into those computers, and these attacks have become more sophisticated over the years. Fortunately, the quality of network security has also improved as a result as programmers working to keep a foot ahead of those looking to cause damage. 


Grace Murray Hopper, a computer scientist and rear admiral in the United States Navy, popularizes the term, “computer bug,” after she noticed and removed a moth that had caused an error in the Harvard Mark II computer that was housed at Harvard University. 


AT&T starts monitoring phone calls to catch phreakers who were recreating tones to access the system and allow them to make long-distance telephone calls for free. In order to achieve these goals over the previous 10 years, phreakers had also been doing things like reading technical journals, gaining access to documents that the telephone companies had thrown out and impersonating telephone operators. 


Esquire Magazine publishes a story about John Draper, an individual who discovered that he could make telephone calls for free with the help of a plastic toy whistle that came with Cap’n Crunch cereal boxes. The sound that the whistle created was the same as a 2600-hertz tone that unlocked AT&T’s network. 

The skills used to illegally make these free telephone calls were similar to the ones that computer hackers would utilize decades later. 


The first computer worm is created at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, Calif. Although the intent of this worm was to increase the efficiency of affected computers, hackers would later modify them to destroy and alter data. What makes these programs so dangerous to computer security is that they are executed without the computer’s user consenting to their use. 


The term, “computer virus,” is first used. Fred Cohen mentions it in a paper he writes during his time at the University of Southern California, “Computer Viruses – Theory and Experiments.” 


The first known computer virus, “Brain,” is released to help a pair of Pakistani men protect their medical software. Users of infected computers were asked to “contact us for vaccination” as their contact information was included with the virus. 


The Morris Worm is dispersed by Robert Tappan Morris, a student at Cornell University who released it at MIT to disguise where it actually originated. This is likely the first worm to be released; it is definitely the first to become well known. Although it was created to simply gauge the size of the Internet, the Morris Worm slowed infected computers each time it infected them. It is believed to have infected 6,000 computers or about 10 percent of the 60,000 believed to be connected to the Internet at this time. 


The ILOVEYOU computer worm, which was sent from the Philippines, causes more than 50 million infections within a 10-day span and is said to have also infected 10 percent of the world’s computers that were connected to the Internet. It spread quickly as a version of itself was sent to every address in the address book of computers already infected. The file that was attached to these e-mails appeared to be an innocuous .txt file when it was in fact a much more dangerous txt.vbs file. 


The Storm Worm Trojan horse is sent with e-mails that included headlines about interesting newsworthy events. This threat to computer security was especially dangerous and resilient as its packing code was changed every 10 minutes, and its command and control servers were altered after it was installed. 


The network security of Target is compromised when hackers access its servers and information about 110 million of its customers. The hacking started on Nov. 27, but Target did not discover it until Dec. 13. It was patched two days later, and the company announced what had occurred on Dec. 19.

Download our guide to mitigating alert fatigue, with real-world tips on automating remediation and triage from an IT veteran.


Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

{{ parent.title || parent.header.title}}

{{ parent.tldr }}

{{ parent.urlSource.name }}