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The Internet has a long history of turbulent relations, major maliciously designed disruptions (such as wide scale computer virus incidents, DOS and DDOS attacks that cripple services, and organized attacks that cripple major online communities), and other conflicts. This is a list of known and documented Internet, Usenet, virtual community and World Wide Web related conflicts, and of conflicts that touch on both offline and online worlds with possibly wider reaching implications.
Spawned from the original ARPANET, the modern Internet, World Wide Web and other services on it, such as virtual communities (bulletin boards, forums, and Massively multiplayer online games) have grown exponentially. Such prolific growth of population, mirroring "offline" society, contributes to the amount of conflicts and problems online growing each year. Today, billions of people in nearly all countries use various parts of the Internet. Inevitably, as in "brick and mortar" or offline society, the virtual equivalent of major turning points, conflicts, and disruptions--the online equivalents of the falling of the Berlin Wall, the creation of the United Nations, spread of disease, and events like the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait will occur.
Pre WWW era, 1950s-1991
- In May, the first known spam email was sent, to "several hundred" recipients.
- ARPANET grinds to a complete halt on October 27 because of an accidentally-propagated status-message virus.
- Kevin Mitnick, a famous former computer criminal, was arrested by the FBI on February 15. Mitnick was convicted of wire fraud and of breaking into the computer systems of Fujitsu, Motorola, Nokia, and Sun Microsystems. He served five years in prison. His pursuit and subsequent arrest made him one of the most famous hackers up to that time.
- A 23-year-old graduate student at Cornell University, Robert Tappan Morris, released the Internet's first worm, the Morris worm. Morris, the son of a National Security Agency (NSA) computer security expert, wrote 99 lines of code and released them as an experiment. The program began replicating and infecting machines at a much faster rate than he had anticipated, causing machines all over the world to crash.
WWW era, 1991 onwards
- Phil Zimmermann creates and releases Pretty Good Privacy, an encryption tool still in use. By 1993 he is the target of US government investigations charged with "munitions export without a license". The investigation ended in 1996 with no charges filed; this is the first known case of a government trying to stop the spread of encryption technology.
- An international group, dubbed the "Phonemasters" by the FBI, hacked into the networks of a number of companies including MCI WorldCom, Sprint, AT&T, and Equifax credit reporters. The gang accounted for approximately $1.85 million in business losses.
- In late 1994, Vladimir Levin convinced Citibank's computers to transfer $10 million from its customers' accounts to his. Interpol arrested him at Heathrow Airport and Citibank got most of the money back. He pleaded guilty in 1995, but the method he used wasn't uncovered for another ten years and at that time was one of the largest computer crimes by dollar value.
- 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.
- US President Bill Clinton signs the Communications Decency Act into US federal law as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Web site operators turn their pages black in protest. The decency provisions are overturned the following year in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union.
- The CIH computer virus is released, written by Chen Ing Hau of Taiwan. It is considered to be one of the most harmful widely circulated viruses, overwriting critical information on infected system drives, and more importantly, in some cases corrupting the system BIOS, rendering computer systems unbootable. It was found in the wild in September.
- 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).
- The US government allows the export of 56-bit encryption software, and stronger encryption software for highly sensitive data.
- From the time the Morris worm struck the Internet until the onset of the Melissa virus, the Internet was relatively free from swift-moving, highly destructive "malware." The Melissa virus, however, was rapacious; damages have been estimated at nearly $400 million. It marked a turning point, being the first incident of its kind to affect the newly commercial Internet.
- The US government establishes a technical review process to allow the export of encryption software regardless of key length.
- Discovering a demo of their song "I Disappear" on the Napster P2P file-sharing network, rock band Metallica filed legal action against Napster over it. This was the first time a major musical act publicly went against allegedly illegal file sharing.
- In February 2000, some of the Internet's most reliable sites were rendered nearly unreachable by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Yahoo took the first hit on February 7, 2000. In the next few days, Buy.com, eBay, CNN, Amazon.com, ZDNet.com, E-Trade, and Excite were taken down by DDoS attacks. Though damage estimates vary widely, the FBI estimates that the companies suffered $1.7 billion USD in lost business and other damages.
- Site Finder, the attempt by VeriSign in 2003 to take control of all unregistered .com and .net domain names for their own purposes, is launched, and just as quickly scuttled after massive public outcry and official protest from groups such as ARIN and IANA.
- In November, Marvel Comics filed a lawsuit against the developers of the City of Heroes Massively multiplayer online game, Cryptic Studios and their publisher NCSoft alleging that the game not only allows, but actively promotes, the creation of characters whose copyrights and trademarks are owned by Marvel, and that Cryptic has intentionally failed to police these infringing characters. The suit sought unspecified damages and an injunction to force the companies to stop making use of its characters. The case is settled and rejected by United States courts in December 2005 with no changes made to the City of Heroes game.
- In October, the 2005 Sony BMG CD copy protection scandal began, where it was discovered that Sony BMG Music Entertainment surreptitiously and possibly illegally distributed copy protection software that forced itself to install on computers playing their audio CDs. As a result, many Windows based computers belonging to consumers were left vulnerable to exploit and hacking.
- In November, it was revealed that the online video game World of Warcraft, with millions of subscribers, would be hackable due to the far-reaching corruption and invasiveness of Sony's copy protection scheme.
- On December 20, the City of Heroes game servers were nearly all hacked by an undisclosed method. According to NCSoft representative CuppaJo, "Customer data and its security was not compromised in any way during the incident that occurred," and no additional information beyond this was publicly disclosed. As of July 2006, this is the first known hack of any MMO, of which there are millions of subscribers across numerous games.
- The MPAA in May was accused of hiring illegal hackers to fight torrent technology.
- In June, The Pirate Bay, a BitTorrent tracker website based in and operating from Sweden, is raided by Swedish police for allegedly violating United States, Swedish, and European Union copyright law. As of November 2006, the site remains online, operating from Denmark and no legal action has been filed against it or its owners. (The site is online now at thepiratebay.org)
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