The History of Cybercrime: A Comprehensive Guide(2021)


You may have wondered when or what the first example of cybercrime was and you may not be shocked by the responses. Before the Internet had come into being and including data theft, the first cases of cybercrime were committed. The invention of digitized techniques may have moved humanity into the 21st century, but criminals did the same thing.

History of Cybercrime

  • 1834 – A couple of robbers hack the French Telegraph System and steal information from the stock market, essentially carrying out the first cyberattack in the world.
  • 1878 – Early Mobile Calls-The Bell Telephone Company boots a group of young boys off the telephone grid in New York for repeatedly and purposely misdirecting and disconnecting customer calls two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the machine.
  • 1955 – Phone Hacker-David Condon whistles his phone with his “Davy Crockett Cat” and “Canary Bird Call Flute,” exploring a hypothesis about how phone networks operate. The computer accepts the secret message, assumes he is an employee and links him to a long-distance operator.
  • 1957– Joe Engressia, a blind, 7-year-old boy with perfect pitch, hears a high-pitched whistle on a phone line and begins to whistle along to it at a 2600Hz speed, helping him communicate with phone lines and becoming the United States’ first phone hacker or “phone phreak.”
  • 1969 – RABBITS Virus-The University of Washington Data Center downloads a program on a computer from an unknown user. The inconspicuous machine creates copies of itself before the machine overloads and ceases running (breeding like a rabbit). It is known to be the first virus on a computer.
  • 1970-1995 – Kevin Mitnick-Kevin Mitnick penetrates some of the highest-guarded networks in the world, including Nokia and Motorola, leveraging specialized social engineering systems, tricking insiders into handing codes and passwords over and using codes to breach internal operating systems.
  • 1973 – Embezzlement-A local New York bank teller uses a machine to embezzle more than $2 million.
  • 1981 – Cybercrime Conviction-Ian Murphy, aka “Captain Zap,” breaks into the network of AT&T and alterations the internal clock at peak hours to charge off-hour prices. 
  • 1982 – The Logic Bomb The CIA blows up a Siberian gas pipeline by injecting a code into the network and the operating system to monitor the gas pipeline without using a bomb or a missile. 
  • 1984 – US Secret Service-The United States Comprehensive Crime Prevention Act grants authority over electronic theft to the Secret Service.
  • 1988 – The Morris Worm-Robert Morris releases what on the Internet will be considered the first worm. To show that the author is a student there, the worm is released from a computer at MIT.
  • 1989 – Trojan Horse Program A diskette that appears to be an AIDS information archive is mailed to a UK electronic journal to thousands of AIDS researchers and subscribers.
  • 1994 – Managers of Datastream Cowboy and Kuji at the Rome Air Production Centre, a U.S. The Air Force testing facility has mounted a “sniffer” password on its network, compromising more than 100 user profiles. Investigators found that there were two hackers behind the attack, identified as Datastream Cowboy and Kuji.
  • 1995 – Vladimir Levin—Russian software developer Vladimir Levin hacks from his apartment in Saint Petersburg into Citibank’s New York IT machine and authorizes a number of illegal transfers, ultimately wiring worldwide accounts for an estimated $10 million. 
  • 1999 – The Melissa Virus-A virus infects Microsoft Word records, transmitting itself via email as an attachment automatically. It mails out to the first 50 names mentioned in the Outlook email address box of an infected device. 
  • 2000 – Barry Schlossberg, alias Lou Cipher, successfully extort $1.4 million from CD Universe for services given to the Russian hacker in an effort to apprehend him.
  • 2002 – Online Attack-A DDoS targets the entire Internet for an hour by attacking the 13 root servers of the Domain Name System (DNS). Users are generally unchanged.
  • 2004 – ChoicePoint-A 41-year-old Nigerian citizen breaches ChoicePoint’s consumer records, but the company only notifies 35,000 citizens of the abuse. 
  • 2006 – TJX-A cybercriminal group captures TJX, a Massachusetts-based retailing company, 45 million credit, and debit card numbers. It uses a majority of the stolen cards to fund a Wal-Mart internet shopping spree. 
  • 2008 – Heartland Payment Systems-134 million credit cards are exposed to spyware on Heartland’s computer systems via SQL injection. 
  • 2010 – The Stuxnet Worm-The world’s first software bomb is a destructive computer virus that can attack control systems used for controlling manufacturing facilities. 
  • 2011 – Epsilon-A cyberattack on Epsilon that provides consumers, including Best Buy and JPMorgan Chase, with email handling and marketing facilities results in millions of email addresses being hacked.
  • 2013-2015 – Global Bank Hack-More than 100 organizations around the world have access to secure information from a community of Russian-based hackers. 
  • 2015 – On Android phones, LockerPin resets the pin code and demands $500 from victims to unlock the system, claiming personal data leakage on up to 78.8 million current and former users.
  • 2016 – DNC Email Leaks-Emails from the Democratic National Committee were leaked to and released by WikiLeaks prior to the 2016 US presidential election.
  • 2017 – Equifax-Equifax is compromised, revealing 143 million customer accounts, one of the biggest US credit bureaus. Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and certain credit card numbers are part of the confidential leaked info.


In the early 2000s, when social media came to life, cybercrime really began to take off. A flood of personal information and the rise of ID theft was generated by the influx of people putting all the information they could into a profile database. Thieves used the information to reach bank accounts, set up credit cards or other financial fraud in a variety of ways.

The new wave is the emergence of an annual global crime enterprise totalling almost half a trillion dollars. Such criminals work in groups, use well-established tactics and target everything and anybody with a web presence.

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.



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