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Brief History of Cybercrime

The word “Cybercrime” was first coined in 1982 by William Gibson but it gained popularity in 1984 through his novel ‘Neuromancer’. An interesting thing about the meaning of ‘Cyber’ is firmly linked with technological innovations, its origin lies in the Greek Kubernetes, or steersman, which comes from the root of the word ‘Govern’. For example, the French usage of the term ‘Cybernetique’ means the ‘Art of Governing’[1]. The word ‘Cyber’ entered the English language in ‘Cybernetics’, which is the ‘Study of Systems of Control and Communication’.

The main significant rush of cybercrime accompanied the multiplication of email during the last part of the 80’s. Through these messages the cybercriminals used to convey tricks and additionally malware to somebody’s inbox which by implication sends all information or data from the hosts gadget to the cybercriminal’s gadget with no clue to the host.


A phone phreak[2] named Mr. John Draper, found out that a whistle given as a prize in boxes of Captain Crunch Cereal produced a 2600Hz tone the same tone as telephones switching computers of the time. He built a ‘blue box’ with the whistle allowing him to make free long-distance calls and a journalist Ron Rosenbaum published an article “Secrets of The Little Blue Box” containing instructions on how to make it heavily relying on the interviews of Mr. Draper.

This incident led to the rise of wire fraud in U.S. In 1972, Mr. Draper was arrested on accusations of toll fraud and condemned to five years’ trial. Draper completed two prison sentences for phone fraud in 1976 and 1978.


A local New York bank Union Dime Savings Bank’s teller named Roswell Steffen Para, N.J., embezzled over $2 million dollars using a computer. He was never before caught because the bank officials asserted, Mr. Steffen utilized the cleverest & most invisible device the computer to conceal his thefts.

Mr. Steffen was arrested & charged of grand larceny and forgery in Manhattan Criminal Court to which he pleaded not guilty was held on $20,000 bail by Criminal Court Judge Howard E. Goldfuss.[3]


The 1st electronic bulletin board system was launched by Ward Christensen and Randy Suess. This system quickly became the cyber worlds preferred method of communication cause in this method knowledge can be shared very fast & free of cost with tips & tricks for hacking inside computer networks. Drumming up some excitement among specialists and programmers, it was not well before others start building clones of CBBS. Early, BBSs had a privately arranged frameworks, however sooner rather than later the limits brought forth different hacks and telephone phreaking.[4]


Ian Murphy, also known as Captain Zap to the hacker’s world was the 1st person convicted of cybercrime. He hacked into AT&T network and changed the billing clock system to charge off-hours rates at peak times. The County of Montgomery, Pennsylvania charged with 1,000 hours of community service & 2.5 years of probation, a mere slap on the wrist compared to today’s penalties & was the inspiration for the movie Sneakers.[5]


Elk Cloner a boot sector virus & one of the earliest microcomputer viruses was a joke written by a 15-year-old schoolboy, an entrepreneur Rich Skrenta during his winter vacation while trying to formulate a technique to alter floppy disks without actually touching them which turned out to be a boot sector virus. It attached itself with Apple II computer operating system spread through a floppy disk. This virus could be removed using Apple’s Master Create Utility. It is one of the first known viruses to leave its original operating system and spread in the ‘wild’.[6]


The movie War Games was released which was written by Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes and directed by John Badham bringing hacking to the mainstream. The movie depicts a teenage boy who hacks into the government computer system and nearly starts World War III. It was based on a real-life incident that would have started a thermonuclear war in 1979 because of the programmers at NORAD when they inadvertently ran a Soviet attack computer stimulation. With the release of the movie the Bulletin Board System operators reported an unusual rise in activity in 1984. A sequel of the film was released directly to video in 2008.[7]


US Congress passes the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, making hacking and burglary unlawful.


Robert T. Morris Jr., a graduate student at Cornell, discharged a self-replicating worm into the Defense Department’s ARPANET. ARPANET is the predecessor of the internet. The worm gets out of hand, infects almost more than 600,000 networked computers. Due to which he was prosecuted & became the 1st Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA) with a fine of $10,000 and 3-years’ probation, another slap on the wrist.[8]


The primary enormous scope instance of ransomware was accounted for. The infection acted like a test on the AIDS infection and, when downloaded, held computer information prisoner for $500. Simultaneously another gathering is captured taking US government and private Section information and offering it to the KGB.


The Legion of Doom and Masters of Deception, two digital based groups, participate in online fighting. They effectively block each other’s associations, hack into computers, and take information. These two gatherings were enormous scope telephone phreaks renowned for various hacks into phone centralized computer foundation. The expansion of the two gatherings, alongside other digital possess, prompted an FBI sting acting against BBS’s advancing charge card robbery and wire misrepresentation.


Kevin Poulson became popular for hacking into the telephone frameworks. He assumed responsibility for all telephone lines going into a LA radio broadcast to ensure winning a bring in challenge. At a certain point, he was highlighted on America’s Most Wanted when the telephone lines for that show went strangely quiet. At the point when the FBI started their inquiry, he went on the run yet was in the long run gotten. He was condemned to 5 years in Federal prison and was quick to have a prohibition on Internet utilization.


The World Wide Web was dispatched, permitting dark cap programmers to move their data from the old notice board frameworks to their own personal sites. An understudy in the UK utilizes the data to hack into Korea’s atomic program, NASA and other US organizations utilizing just a Commodore Amiga PC and a “blueboxing” program found on the web.


Macro-viruses showed up. This type of viruses was written in HTML scripts of computer inserted inside applications. These viruses start functioning when the application is opened, for example, Word or Excel documents or sheets, and are a simple route for cybercriminals to spread malware. This is the reason opening obscure email connections can be unsafe. Full scale viruses are still difficult to distinguish and are the main source of computer contamination.


CIA Director John Deutsch vouches for Congress that unfamiliar based coordinated cybercriminal rings were effectively attempting to hack US government and corporate organizations. The US GAO declared that its documents had been assaulted by programmers, at any rate, multiple times and that in any event, 60% of them were effective.


The FBI reports that more than 85% of US organizations or institutes had been hacked, and most do not have any acquaintance with it. The Chaos Computer Club Hack Quicken programming and can make monetary exchanges without the bank or the record holder thinking about it.


The Melissa Virus if sent it turns into the most harmful disease for any computer till date and results in one of the first beliefs for somebody composing malware. The Melissa Virus was a full-scale infection fully intent on assuming control over email records and conveying mass-mailings. The virus author was blamed for causing more than $80 million in harm to computer organizations and condemned to 5 years in jail.


The number and kinds of online assaults were increasing dramatically. Music retailer CD Universe is blackmailed for millions after its customers’ Visa data was distributed on the web. Denial of Service (DDoS) assaults were dispatched on various occasions, against AOL, Yahoo, Ebay and numerous others etc. False news caused Emulex stock shares to slump almost half. A virus named ‘I Love You’ proliferates across the Internet. At that point, President Clinton says he does not utilize email to converse with his girl in light of the fact that the networks are not secure.


Shadow Crew’s site was dispatched. The site was a message board and discussion place for dark cap programmers. Individuals could post, share, and figure out how to perpetrate a huge number of cybercrimes and keep away from catch. The site went on for a very long time prior to being closed by the Secret Service. 28 individuals were captured in the US and 6 different nations.


SQL Slammer turns into the quickest spreading worm ever. It tainted SQL workers and made a disavowal of their administration system which influenced speeds across the Internet for a long while. As far as contamination speed, it spread across almost 75,000 machines in less than 10 minutes.


The occurrences of hacking, information burglary and malware diseases skyrockets. The quantities of records taken, machines contaminated ascent into the large numbers, the measure of harms caused into the billions. The Chinese government is blamed for hacking into US and other legislative frameworks.




[4] Feb. 16, 1978: Bulletin Board Goes Electronic | WIRED

[5] Ian Arthur Murphy “Captain Zap” – Security Threat Profile (

[6] What is Elk Cloner? – Definition from Techopedia

[7] War Games was based on a TRUE STORY! (

[8] Robert Tappan Morris – Crime Museum

This article has been written by Arijit Chowdhury, 1st year law student at Reva University, Bangalore

Also Read – How To File Cyber Crime Complaint?

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