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A Short History of Computer Viruses and Attacks

Compiled by Brian Krebs
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, February 14, 2003;

1945: Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper discovers a moth trapped between relays in a Navy computer. She calls it a "bug," a term used since the late 19th century to refer to problems with electrical devices. Murray Hopper also coined the term "debugging" to describe efforts to fix computer problems.

1949: Hungarian scientist John von Neumann (1903-1957) devises the theory of self-replicating programs, providing the theoretical foundation for computers that hold information in their "memory."

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1960: AT&T introduces its Dataphone, the first commercial modem.

1963: Programmers develop the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), a simple computer language that allows machines produced by different manufacturers to exchange data.

1964: AT&T begins monitoring telephone calls to try to discover the identities of "phone freaks," or "phreakers," who use "blue boxes" as tone generators to make free phone calls. The team's surveillance chief tells Newsweek magazine in 1975 that the company monitored 33 million toll calls to find phreakers. AT&T scores 200 convictions by the time the investigation ends in 1970.

1969: Programmers at AT&T's Bell Laboratories develop the UNIX operating system, the first multi-tasking operating system.

1969: The Advanced Research Projects Agency launches ARPANET, an early network used by government research groups and universities, and the forerunner of the Internet.

1972: John Draper, soon to be known as "Captain Crunch," discovers that the plastic whistle in a box of breakfast cereal reproduces a 2600-hertz tone. With a blue box, the whistle unlocks AT&T's phone network, allowing free calls and manipulation of the network. Among other phreakers of the 1970s is famous future hacker Kevin Mitnick.

1972: Future Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak builds his own "blue box." Wozniak sells the device to fellow University of California-Berkeley students.

1974: Telenet, a commercial version of ARPANET, debuts.

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