Cyber attacks and news of them have become quite commonplace these days, and as more and more devices become connected to the ever-increasing internet of things, we’re likely to see an increase in these types of attacks in the future. While these days we have anti-virus systems and methods to alert service providers that something’s up, in the early days of the internet there were no such safety measures.
Back in the early days of the internet, 1988 to be precise, a young researcher and graduate student at Cornell named Robert Morris, decided that he wanted to find out how many people were connected to the internet. The idea was to write a program that could be sent to a number of computers and cause the device to send a signal back to his computer in order to register the device as being connected to the internet. While the idea sounds simple enough in theory, in truth, nothing had ever been done like this before.
Wading into unknown waters turned out to be a risky move for the student, as his program wound up spreading incredibly quickly. In nearly 72 hours, the programme had spread to over 10% of all computers on the internet at the time. This was, in essence, the first ever DDoS (Dedicated Denial of Service) attack. In today’s lingo, Morris’s program would be called a ‘worm’ and his program is considered the first of its kind. These are self-operating programs that can wreak havoc on a person’s device once installed and are the most common form of internet virus today.
While Morris did not set out with the intention to harm peoples devices, he was still charged with 3 years of probation and fined $10,000 for the incident. Thankfully though, he went on to become a dot-com millionaire in the ’90s and helped to prevent a number of different programs of this nature from harming peoples computers.