A brief history of hacking

  • December 1947 – William Shockley invents the transistor and demonstrates its use for the first time. The first transistor consisted of a messy collection of wires, insulators and germanium. According to a recent poll on CNN’s website, the transistor is believed to be the most important discovery in the past 100 years.
  • 1964 – Thomas Kurtz and John Kemeny create BASIC, one of the most popular programming languages even nowadays.
  • 1965 -it’s estimated that approximately 20,000 computer systems are in use in the United States. Most of these are manufactured by International Business Machines (IBM).
  • 1968Intel is founded.
  • 1969AMD is founded.
  • 1969 – The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) create the ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet. The first four nodes (networks) of ARPANET consisted of the University of California Los Angeles, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Utah and the Stanford Research Institute.
  • 1969 – Intel announces 1K (1024 bytes) RAM modules.
  • 1969 – Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchies begin work on UNICS. Thompson writes the first version of UNICS in one month on a machine with 4KB of 18 bit words. UNICS is later renamed ‘UNIX’.
  • 1969 – MIT becomes home to the first computer hackers, who begin altering software and hardware to make it work better and/or faster.
  • 1969 – Linus Torvalds born in Helsinki.
  • 1970 – DEC introduces the PDP-11, one of the most popular computer designs ever. Some are still in use as today.
  • 1971 – John Draper, aka as ‘Cap’n Crunch’ hacks phone systems using a toy whistle from a cereal box.
  • 1971 – The first email program is released for the Arpanet. The author is Ray Tomlinson, who decides to use the ‘@’ character to separate the user name from the domain address.
  • 1972 – Ritchie and Kerningham rewrite UNIX in C, a programming language designed with portability in mind.
  • 1972 – NCSA develops the ‘telnet’ tool.
  • 1973 – Gordon Moore, Intel’s chairman postulates the famous ‘Moore Law’, which states the number of transistors in CPUs will double every 18 months, a law which will stay true for more than 20 years.
  • 1973 – FTP is introduced.
  • 1974 – Stephen Bourne develops the first major UNIX shell, the ‘bourne’ shell.
  • 1975 – Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft.
  • 1976 – A 21-year old Bill Gates writes ‘An Open Letter to Hobbyists’, a document in which he condemns open source and software piracy.
  • April 1st, 1976Apple Computers is founded.
  • 1977 – Billy Joy authors BSD, another UNIX-like operating system.
  • 1979 – Microsoft licenses the UNIX source code from AT&T and creates their own implementation, ‘Xenix’.
  • 1981 – The Domain Name System (DNS) is created.
  • 1981 – Microsoft acquires the intellectual property rights for DOS and renames it MS-DOS.
  • 1982Sun Microsystems is founded. Sun will become famous for its SPARC microprocessors, Solaris, the Network File System (NFS) and Java.
  • 1982 – Richard Stallman begins to develop a free version of UNIX which he calls ‘GNU’, a recursive definition meaning ‘GNU’s Not UNIX’.
  • 1982 – William Gibson invents the term ‘cyberspace’.
  • 1982 – SMTP, the ‘simple mail transfer protocol’ is published. SMTP is currently the most widespread method for exchanging messages on the Internet.
  • 1982 – Scott Fahlman invents the first emoticon, ‘:)’.
  • 1983 – The Internet is founded by splitting the Arpanet into separate military and civilian networks.
  • 1983 – FidoNet is developed by Tom Jennings. FidoNet will become the most widespread information exchange network in the world for the next 10 years, until the Internet takes over.
  • 1983 – Kevin Poulsen, aka ‘Dark Dante’ is arrested for breaking into the Arpanet.
  • 1984CISCO Systems is founded.
  • 1984 – Fred Cohen develops the first PC viruses and comes up with the now-standard term ‘computer virus’.
  • 1984 – Andrew Tannenbaum creates Minix, a free UNIX clone based on a modular microkernel architecture.
  • 1984 – Bill Landreth, aka ‘The Cracker’, is convicted of hacking computer systems and accessing NASA and Department of Defense computer data.
  • 1984 – Apple introduces Macintosh System 1.0.
  • 1985 – Richard Stallman founds the Free Software Foundation.
  • March 15, 1985 – ‘Symbolics.com’ is registered as the first Internet domain name.
  • November 1985 – Microsoft releases ‘Windows 1.0’, which sells for $100.
  • 1986 – The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in US adopted.
  • 1986 – ‘Legion of Doom’ member Loyd Blankenship, aka ‘The Mentor’, is arrested and publishes the now famous ‘Hacker’s Manifesto’.
  • 1988 – The CD-ROM is invented.
  • 1988 – IRC is established.
  • November 1988 – Robert Morris launches an Internet worm which infects several thousand systems and clogs computers around the country due to a programming error. This worm is now knows as the Morris worm.
  • 1989 – the WWW is developed at CERN labs, in Switzerland.
  • 1990 – The Arpanet is dismantled.
  • 1990 – Kevin Poulsen hacks a phone system in LA making himself the winner of a Porsche 944 in a radio phone-in.
  • 1991PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a powerful, free encryption tool is released by Philip Zimmerman. The software quickly becomes the most popular encryption package in the world.
  • 1991 – Rumours appear regarding the computer virus ‘Michaelangelo’, coded to launch its destructive payload on March 6th.
  • September 17, 1991 – Linus Torvalds releases the first version of Linux.
  • 1992 – The ‘Masters of Deception’ phone phreaking group is arrested due to evidence obtained via wiretaps.
  • 1993 – The Mosaic web browser is released.
  • 1993 – Microsoft releases Windows NT.
  • 1993 – First version of FreeBSD is released.
  • March 23, 1994 – 16-year-old Richard Pryce, aka ‘Datastream Cowboy’, is arrested and charged with unauthorized computer access.
  • 1994 – Vladimir Levin, a Russian mathematician, hacks into Citibank and steals $10 million.
  • 1995 – Dan Farmer and Wietse Venema release SATAN, an automated vulnerability scanner, which becomes a popular hacking tool.
  • 1995 – Chris Lamprecht, aka ‘Minor Threat’, is the first person to be ever banned from the Internet.
  • 1995 – Sun launches Java, a computer programming language designed to be portable across different platforms in compiled form.
  • August 1995 – Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) released. IE will become the most exploited web browser in history and a favourite target for virus writers and hackers.
  • August 1995 – Windows 95 is launched.
  • 1996 – IBM releases OS/2 Warp version 4, a powerful multi-tasking operating system with a new user interface, as a counter to Microsoft’s recently released Windows 95. Despite being more reliable and stable, OS/2 will slowly lose ground and be discontinued a few years later.
  • 1996ICQ, the first IM, is released.
  • 1996 – Tim Lloyd plants a software time bomb at Omega Engineering, a company in New Jersey. The results of the attack are devastating: losses of USD $12 million and more than 80 employees lose their jobs. Lloyd is sentenced to 41 months in jail.
  • 1997 – DVD format specifications published.
  • 1998 -Two Chinese hackers, Hao Jinglong and Hao Jingwen (twin brothers), are sentenced to death by a court in China for breaking into a bank’s computer network and stealing 720’000 yuan ($87’000).
  • March 18, 1998 – Ehud Tenebaum, a prolific hacker aka ‘The Analyzer’, is arrested in Israel for hacking into many high profile computer networks in US.
  • 1998CIH virus released. CIH was the first virus to include a payload which wipes the FLASH BIOS memory, rendering computer systems unbootable and invalidating the myth that ‘viruses cannot damage hardware’.
  • March 26, 1999Melissa virus released.
  • 2000 – A Canadian teenage hacker known as ‘Mafiaboy’ conducts a DoS attack and renders Yahoo, eBay, Amazon.com, CNN and a few other web sites inaccessible. He is later sentenced to eight months in a youth detention center.
  • 2000 – Microsoft Corporation admits its computer network was breached and the code for several upcoming versions of Windows were stolen.
  • 2000 – FBI arrests two Russian hackers, Alexei V. Ivanov and Vasiliy Gorshkov. The arrests took place after a long and complex operation which involved bringing the hackers to the US for a ‘hacking skills demonstration’.
  • July 2001CodeRed worm released. It spreads quickly around the world, infecting a hundred thousand computers in a matter of hours.
  • 2001 – Microsoft releases Windows XP.
  • July 18th, 2002 – Bill Gates announces the ‘Trustworthy Computing’ initiative, a new direction in Microsoft’s software development strategy aimed at increasing security.
  • October 2002 – A massive attack against 13 root domain servers of the Internet is launched by unidentified hackers. The aim: to stop the domain name resolution service around the net.
  • 2003 – Microsoft releases Windows Server 2003.
  • April 29th, 2003 – New Scotland Yard arrest Lynn Htun at a London’s InfoSecurity Europe 2003 computer fair. Lynn Htun is believed to have gained unauthorized access to many major computer systems such as Symantec and SecurityFocus.
  • November 6th, 2003 – Microsoft announces a USD 5 million reward fund. The money will be given to those who help track down hackers targeting the software giant’s applications.
  • May 7th, 2004 – Sven Jaschan, the author of the Netsky and Sasser Internet worms, is arrested in northern Germany.
  • September 2004 – IBM presents a supercomputer which is the fastest machine in the world. Its sustained speed is 36 trillion operations per second.
  • 24 June 2005 – Robert Lyttle (one half of the ‘Synamic Duo’) was sentenced to four months in prison (followed by three years probation) and given a fine of $72,000 for hacking into US government computer systems and defacing web sites.
  • 17 August 2005 – former AOL software engineer Jason Smathers given a 15 month prison sentence for stealing 92 million screen names from an AOL database and selling them to a spammer. The spammers then used the e-mail addresses to send out 7 billion spam messages.
  • 24 August 2005 – Chinese hacker arrested in Japan for virtual ‘theft’ of online game goods.
  • 6 January 2006 – Sean Galvez indicted in Massachusetts on one count of larceny and 10 counts of unauthorized access to a computer and identity fraud for breaking into more than 40 eBay accounts and accumulating charges totaling $32,000.
  • 3 October 2006 – three men sentenced to eight years each in Russia for a spree of extortion attacks in 2003: the hackers stole up to $4 million from UK companies.
  • 23 August 2007 – UK man arrested for unauthorised use of a wireless connection in Chiswick, London.
  • 18 December 2007 – Hario Tandiwidjojo, a former computer consultant, pleads guilty in the US to unauthorized access to a protected computer, after breaking in to more than 60 business kiosks at hotels and stealing credit card information.
  • 11 June 2008 – Robert Matthew Bentley sentenced in the US to 41 months in prison, and ordered to pay $65,000 restitution, for breaking into corporate computer systems in Europe (including those of Rubbermaid) and using them as part of a botnet.
  • 11 July 2008 – Yang Litao receives two years in prison in China for hacking into a Red Cross web site and attempting to divert relief donations to a bank account under his control (following the Sichuan earthquake).
  • 5 November 2008 – Ivan Biltse, Angelina Kitaeva and Yuriy Rakushchynets (aka Yuriy Ryabinin) plead guilty in the US to conspiracy and access device fraud for their part in a scheme that used stolen Citibank card information to steal $2 million. The group, that included seven others charged earlier in the year, allegedly broke into a server that processes ATM transactions from 7-eleven cash machines.
  • 5 March 2009 – the gang behind the failed attempt to steal $229 million from the London office of the Sumitomo Bank in 2004 are sent to prison. Hackers were smuggled into the bank by an insider and used commercial keylogging software to capture login credentials and transfer money to overseas accounts. The two hackers, Jan van Osselaer and Gilles Poelvoorde, were given sentences of three and a half years and four years respectively. The insider, Kevin O’Donoghue, O’Donoghue was ordered to serve four years and four months in prison. Hugh Rodley and David Nash, who set up the international bank accounts, received sentences of eight years and three years respectively.
  • 28 August 2009 – Albert Gonzalez agrees to plead guilty to 19 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, aggravated identity theft and money laundering related to the theft of more than 170 million credit and debit card accounts from TJX, Barnes & Noble, Office Max and others. Under the terms of the deal, Gonzalez will spend 15 to 25 years in prison and will forfeit more than $2.8 million.
  • 17 February 2010 – hacker replaces commercial video with porn on a Moscow billboard.
  • 24 February 2010 – hacker leaks data about the finances of Latvian banks and state-owned firms to Latvian TV.

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