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Cyberwar timeline

Tracing the history of cyberespionage and cyberwarfare from the invention of the Internet up to the targeted attacks on US banks by an Islamic hacktivist group.

By Staff writer / March 7, 2011



[Editor's note: Story updated on Jan. 8, 2012]

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1973 – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiates research program to investigate technologies for linking computer networks.

1982 – Vinton Cerf, later dubbed the "Father of the Internet," leaves DARPA for an executive post with telecom company MCI as the Internet becomes commercialized.

1984 – William Gibson, science fiction author of "Neuromancer," coins term "cyberspace."

1994 – Prof. James Der Derian coins term "cyber deterrence" in Wired Magazine.

1997 – US holds cyberwar game dubbed "Eligible Receiver," featuring National Security Agency personnel as "North Korean" hackers.Target was the US Pacific Command. Team representing US is reported to fare poorly.

February 1998 – Solar Sunrise is an operational name given to a series of incursions into US Department of Defense computer networks. The attacks, which pilfer sensitive data across 500 systems, appear to come from servers around the world. Later it's discovered that three California teenagers were behind the breaches.

1998 – CIA Director George Tenet gives speech on "information security risks" and, for the first time, a US spy chief refers publicly to the threat of "cyberattack."

1998 – US military coordinates cyberdefense efforts under a Joint Task Force – Computer Network Defense.

2003 – Department of Homeland Security (DHS) consolidates several cyberdefense offices into a new National CyberSecurity Division (NCSD), intended to protect government computer systems from Internet-based attacks.

2006 – Air Force announces plans to create a Cyber Command to handle cyberwarfare and network defense.

March 2007 – Idaho National Laboratories secretly conducts the "Aurora Generator Test," which shows that a cyberattack on an industrial-control system can damage a machine. In this case it causes a large diesel generator to shudder, hurl shards of metal, and emit smoke before dying altogether. Video of the demonstration is leaked to the press and reported in Sept. 2007.

April-May 2007 – Cyberwarriors block the websites of the Estonian government and clog the country's Internet network. The attacks disrupt the use of websites for 22 days.

January 2008 – Senior CIA analyst Tom Donahue, speaking at a conference, publicly acknowledges that attackers have targeted power-grid computers worldwide, causing at least one widespread electrical outage.

March 2008 – The Pentagon reveals that, in 2007, computer networks operated by DOD, other federal agencies, and defense-related think tanks and contractors were targets of computer network intrusions. Although those responsible were not definitively identified, cyber security experts suspect the attacks originated in China.

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