In January of 2003 The SQL Slammer worm, also known as the Sapphire worm, became the fastest spreading worm of all time. In fact, it was capable of crashing the entire Internet within 15 minutes of release. A worm is a tiny piece of code, which generates random IP addresses and sends itself to those addresses. If it happens to penetrate a system running an unprotected copy of Microsoft SQL Server on a particular port, the host immediately becomes infected as well, and the cycle repeats.
One of the latest corporate hacks targeted Sony – and it was probably the most damaging one in history. Martin McKeay, a computer security expert working for Akamai Technologies, explains the severity of the attack:
The Sony hack was devastating because the attackers had access to Sony’s network for at least six months as we can tell. They took out a movie, they took out all of their emails, they took out so much sensitive information about what’s going on at Sony that it’s going to take them quite a while to recover and will take even longer to regain the trust of their customers and partners.
When the rapid growth of the internet first took off, as millions of people across the world discovered the World Wide Web for the first time, digital security was not something everyone had to deal with regularly. Common users didn't really understand the dangers of malicious software – and sometimes that cost them dearly. ILOVEYOU, or the Love Letter is one of the most infamous computer worms. In May of 2000, it attacked tens of millions of personal computers which used the Windows operating system, exploiting both software loopholes and users’ lack of awareness. The outbreak was estimated to have caused over $5.5-8.7 billion in damages worldwide; it also cost $15 billion to remove the worm. 10% of internet-connected computers were affected and the CIA, Pentagon, and many other organizations shut down their mail systems to protect themselves from the worm.
In June of 2010 Stuxnet, a Windows Trojan, was first detected. Stuxnet is the first worm to attack SCADA, which stands for ‘supervisory control and data acquisition systems’. The virus reportedly compromised Iranian industrial systems working on the country's nuclear energy project. Supposedly the virus caused the fast-spinning centrifuges to tear themselves apart – a rare case of software capable of physically damaging hardware.
Director of The Information Assurance & Security Management Center of the CSUSB Dr. Tony Coulson provides some insight:
Now we have IP-connected industrial control system devices that are out there and they need to be updated and they need to be protected or encrypted; and they’re also generations old. So things like Stuxnet will have a fertile ground just because industrial control systems are not updated and maintained the same way your average PC is maintained.
While bank clients at times have their accounts compromised by malware, one of the most notable bank hacks happened in 1994. Russian hackers managed to steal $10 million from Citibank and hide the money in bank accounts around the world. The coordinator of the attack was discovered and stood trial in the United States; he was sentenced to three years in prison. Authorities eventually recovered most of the money, but $400,000 was never found.