It’s Halloween! Do you know what that means? It’s time to talk about some of the scariest cyber attacks of all time.

Cyber attacks have been causing huge amounts of devastation to businesses for years. Can you imagine the damage that could be done if highly sensitive information gets into the wrong hands?

The people we are about to talk about have gone down in the history books by making it seem so easy to break into such prestigious organisations, not to mention the fact they are just kids! Keep reading to find out more…

Jonathan James – 1999

  • Born December 12th, 1983 in Florida.
  • He developed a strong obsession with computers and coding from a very young age and created a hacking alias ‘c0mrade’.
  • By the age of 15 he was hacking into educational institutions and later began aiming for bigger targets. 
  • In June 1999, aged 16, he hacked into a NASA unit at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama. Although he didn’t do any damage, he did gain access to lots of sensitive information.
  • NASA shut down their computers for 3 weeks and experienced a loss of $41,000.James then compromised a server belonging to a department in the United States Department of Defence. He gained access to dozens of commenters and downloaded letters from email users within the Pentagon.
  • This was his last attack, he was discovered and became the first juvenile to be sentenced to a term of confinement for computer hacking.
  • On May 18th, 2008 James was found dead in his home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after being accused of being part of another serious cyber attack. His suicide note stated he nothing to do with this.
jonathan james pearson
sven jaschan

Sven Jaschan

  • Sven was bought up in Germany and attended a computer science school.
  • In 2004 the Sasser virus was released, wreaking havoc within high-profile businesses and organisations all across the world.
  • The Sesser virus is a worm that affects computers by running vulnerable versions of Microsoft operating systems. The worm can spread without any interaction from the user, making it extremely destructive.
  • 130 insurance company offices were shut down, several Delta Air Lines flights were cancelled, satellite communication of the AFP news agency was blocked for hours, and companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Post and the European Commission also had issues.
  • Microsoft announced a reward of $250,000 for anyone that could find the hacker. Sven’s class mates handed him in.
  • After confessing to the crimes, the 19 year old received a suspended sentence, which received widespread criticism in the security community.
  • Although 143 claims were made, many large businesses were not willing to admit that their systems were breached by a lone teenager, using publicly available information.
  • The estimated cost of damages was around $500 million, although some say it may be around $18 billion.
  • 5 months later he was employed as an IT trainee at the German software security company, Securepoint.

Michael Calce – 2000

  • In 2000, a 15 year old boy named Michael Calce unleashed a DDoS* attack, named Project Rivolta, that shut down the websites of some of the world’s biggest companies, including Dell, Amazon, Yahoo, eBay and CNN.
  • At the time, he was using the name Mafiaboy as his hacking alias.
  • The attack completely shocked the US stock market and changed the way the public thought about online safety.
  • Michael had no idea of the scale of what he had caused; he simply viewed it as a challenge for himself.
  • Across the 16 companies that were hacked, it cost around $1.7 billion dollars.
  • Michael was arrested by the FBI and charged with over 50 crimes. He was sentenced to 8 months in a youth detention centre.
  • Today, Calce is a white hat hacker*. This means companies hire him to identify security weaknesses in their systems.
michael calce

Check out these tips to keep your Microsoft account safe.


DDoS attack – this is also known as a ‘distributed denial-of-service’ attack. It’s an attempt to disrupt the normal traffic to a server, service or network by overwhelming the target with a flood of internet traffic.

White hat hacker – when a hacker uses their skills to help organisations protect themselves against malicious attacks. They will search for weaknesses in the system and fix them before they can be exploited.


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