- In 1971, Bob Thomas created the first real-world computer virus, called Creeper.
- According to the New Zealand National Cyber Security Centre, there were 350 cybersecurity incidents recorded in 2021–2022.
- In Australia, most people know of the 2022 Optus hack and Latitude in March this year. However, those hacks pale in comparison to the hack carried out on Australian technology unicorn Canva in 2019.
1. Computer viruses aren’t anything new
Every week it seems there’s a new computer virus but the original concept dates to the 1940s. Mathematician John von Neumann came up with the idea of artificial constructs able to replicate themselves, just like a biological virus. This was before computers became widespread but the idea caught on. In the 1960s, when the average computer was the size of a room, a paper was published titled Theory of Self-Replicating Automata. This paper suggested all the virus features we are familiar with, including the ability to damage computer systems and copy themselves from one system to another.
2. The first virus didn’t do much
In 1971, Bob Thomas created the first real-world computer virus, called Creeper. This was more of an experiment to see if building a virus was possible. It spread through the bulletin board systems (BBS) popular at the time (BBS were like a basic website, but they had no hyperlinks and existed solely at the end of a phone line) and infected hard drives. Creeper didn’t do anything malicious except display a message: “I’m the Creeper, catch me if you can!”.
3. Yahoo! takes the cake
Three billion records. That’s how many customers lost their information when Yahoo!, a popular early-2000s web portal, was hacked in 2013. The hackers managed to compromise more than one billion accounts, accessing security questions, passwords and contact details. Things just got worse from there, with another hack the following year targeting a further 500 million accounts. The hack was carried out via phishing, a social engineering technique where individuals are convinced to supply details like usernames and passwords, letting hackers into the network. Yahoo! was fined US$35 million for failing to disclose the cyber breach and named in several class-action lawsuits.
4. New Zealand is a honey pot for hackers
According to the New Zealand National Cyber Security Centre, there were 350 cybersecurity incidents recorded in 2021–2022. One of the best-known New Zealand hacks was two years ago, when multiple hospitals and healthcare facilities were targeted by ransomware, forcing medical professionals to use pen and paper, and shutting down phone lines and emergency rooms. The healthcare sector is particularly attractive to crooks because of the rich personal information, but it’s not just hospitals being targeted. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand had its own incident, as did Air New Zealand. While all businesses are vulnerable to cyber attacks, healthcare, insurance and financial institutions must be particularly vigilant.
5. Latitude, Optus… Canva
Most people know of the 2022 Optus hack and Latitude in March this year, and lots of us have been affected. However, those hacks pale in comparison to the hack carried out on Australian technology unicorn Canva in 2019. Canva, which offers easy-to-use, browser-based design tools, suffered a data breach which compromised 137 million customer records, including real names, some payment data and encrypted passwords. While Optus and Medibank were probably worse in terms of exposing the personal information of individuals, Canva holds the ignominious distinction of losing the greatest number of account records to cybercriminals.
Protecting SMEs Against Cyber Criminals
The podcast 'Protecting SMEs Against Cyber Criminals' looks into why SMEs are targets for cybercriminals and offers strategies to protect smaller firms against attack.Find out more