Timeline of Internet conflicts

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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 number 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 World Wide Web era[edit]




  • ARPANET grinds to a complete halt on October 27 because of an accidentally-propagated status-message virus.[1][2]


  • Kevin Mitnick 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.



World Wide Web era[edit]



  • 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.[3]
  • In late 1995, Vladimir Levin persuaded 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.
  • Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel post the first large commercial newsgroup spam, setting off an arms race between spammers and network operators.




  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) becomes law in the United States.
  • 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).[5]
  • The US government allows the export of 56-bit encryption software, and stronger encryption software for highly sensitive data.
  • The Electronic Disturbance Theater launches the Floodnet tool for civil disobedience, a tool to create a denial-of-service attack (DOS). The first DoS attacks were launched against the Pentagon, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the Mexican government.


  • 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, heavy metal band Metallica filed legal action against Napster over it (Metallica v. Napster, Inc.). 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.
  • On May 5, 2000, the ILOVEYOU computer worm attacked tens of millions of Windows-based PCs. It started spreading as an email message with the subject line "ILOVEYOU" and the attachment "LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs". The outbreak was estimated to have caused US$5.5–8.7 billion in damages worldwide, and estimated to cost the US$15 billion to remove the worm. The worm originated from the Philippines.





  • 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 MMO, 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 game.


  • In May, the Wikipedia Seigenthaler biography incident began.
  • In October, the Sony BMG copy protection rootkit scandal began, where it was discovered that Sony BMG 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.[10]
  • 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.[11][12][13][14]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ jmusheneaux.com: History of the Internet
  2. ^ thocp.net: Arpanet History
  3. ^ pbs.org: notable hackers
  4. ^ Network World: Tim Lloyd Saga
  5. ^ Reuters archive: Court upholds hacker's death sentence
  6. ^ frontline: hackers: who are hackers: notable hacks
  7. ^ Wired.com: Russian Adobe Hacker Busted
  8. ^ eff.org: info on DMCA and Russia
  9. ^ news.com: Net attack flops, but threat persists
  10. ^ The Register: World of Warcraft hackers using Sony BMG rootkit
  11. ^ cityofheroes.com: official incident response
  12. ^ kotaku.com: City of Heroes Hacked
  13. ^ jucaushii.ro: City of Heroes Hacked
  14. ^ addict3d.org: City of Heroes Hacked
  15. ^ Wired: Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room
  16. ^ EFF.org: Government Moves to Intervene in AT&T Surveillance Case Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ USA Today: NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls
  18. ^ Democracy Now: Three Major Telecom Companies Help US Government Spy on Millions of Americans
  19. ^ Netcraft: DDoS on Blue Security Blog Knocks Typepad, LiveJournal Offline
  20. ^ gigaom.com: The Day DDoS Brought Down Six Apart
  21. ^ Greg Sandoval (May 24, 2006). "MPAA accused of hiring a hacker". CNET News.com. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013.
  22. ^ Wired.com: Pirate Bay Bloodied But Unbowed