Culture 5 min read

10 Times the Internet was Brought to Its Knees

Niran Phonruang |

Niran Phonruang |

Since the first computer virus was created in 1986 by the Farooq Alvi Brothers in Pakistan, there have been hundreds of viruses created all with a different magnitude of effects.

Some computer viruses are pretty much harmless, but a few have brought the Internet to its knees.

#Petya #WannaCry #MorrisWorm #Melissa #ILOVEYOU all took on the Internet.Click To Tweet

Edgy Labs brings to you the major attacks that shook the basis of the Internet, creating devastating effects, for better or worse.

Here are the 10 Times the Internet was Brought to its Knees:

1. Morris Worm

The Morris Worm was one of the first to wiggle its way throughout the Internet. It was created in November 1988 by a graduate student from Cornell University named Robert Tappan Morris. Even though Robert claimed his intentions were not to harm, a flaw in the design of the worm led to it creating far more copies than Morris had anticipated.

The worm affected over 6000 computers and cost hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Robert faced trial, was convicted and sentenced to three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, a $10,050 fine, and the costs of his supervision. The Internet was brought to its knees first by Morris, but it would find itself there many times.

2. Mafiaboy

In February 2000, a Canadian teenager named Michael Calce who went by online name Mafiaboy launched a massive DDOS attack that brought down major websites including Amazon, CNN, Dell, eBay, and Yahoo.

Most websites were down for a whole week. Mafia boy was sentenced to 8 months in a youth detention center and a one-year probation.

3. SQL Slammer/Sapphire

SQL Slammer, also known as Sapphire was a web server virus that affected a lot of large profile companies including Bank Of America and Continental Airlines. The program exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft’s SQL Server.

Even though Microsoft had released a patch 6 months prior to this attack, many installations hadn’t installed the patch including some of Microsoft’s own systems. The virus spread very fast infecting as much as 70,000 systems within 10 minutes.


4. Code Red

The Code Red virus was launched in July 2001. Code red infected Windows 2000 and NT computers by exploiting a vulnerability known as buffer overflow. Just like Sapphire, Microsoft had released a patch to this vulnerability a month before the attack.

The virus spread to over 350,000 computers in less than 24 hours and caused damages in excess of a billion dollars.


5. Nimda

Just a week after 9/11, Nimda, a virus that allowed attackers to have the same access as an infected machine was launched. Unlike its predecessors Nimda virus infected through multiple ways including email, open network shares, surfing infected websites, vulnerabilities left by other worms etc.

Nimda caused damages in excess of $600 million. Because of the timeline of events, the media speculated that Nimda had a link to the 9/11 attack. The Internet was brought to its knees at an already tough time for the U.S.



ILOVEYOU was a virus that infected roughly 1/10th of all personal computers that were online in May 2000. Infected computers received emails with an unsuspecting subject ILOVEYOU.

The virus overwrote random files on infected computers and sent copies of itself to all addresses in the Windows address book of the infected computer. ILOVEYOU infected as many as 45 million computers in a day which resulted in $5.5 billion USD worth of damages only in the first day of the attack.

Onel de Guzman was arrested on suspicion of creating the virus but was later released because the Philippines had no law to prosecute him at the time.


7. NASA and U.S. Department of Defense Hack

In 1999, a teenager named Jonathan James penetrated the U.S. Department of Defense division computers and installed a backdoor on its servers. This backdoor allowed him access to internal emails and access details from different government organizations.

Armed with this information, Jonathan stole a piece of software from NASA. This caused NASA to shut down the systems for three weeks and also spend $41,000 USD to fix them.

Jonathan was caught and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment instead of the usual 10 years because he was only 15. On May 18, 2008, Jonathan committed suicide.


8. Melissa Virus

Melissa was a mass mailing micro virus. David L. Smith created the virus in March 1999. The virus spread itself by tricking people into opening an email with the infected document.

Within hours of posting, the virus locked out tens of thousands of people from their email accounts with hundreds of websites being infected as well.

In December 1999, David L. Smith pleaded guilty to creating and distributing the virus and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. He served 20 months and was fined $5,000.


9. DDoS Attack on DNS

In 2016, a massive DDoS attack on DNS shut down major websites across Europe and the U.S. East Coast. Affected websites included Twitter, Spotify, Reddit, Etsy and lots more. DNS was attacked three times within a period of 6 hours.


10. Amazon AWS Outage

If the Internet was brought to its knees periodically during the last decade, these days it seems to falter constantly. On February 28, 2017, web-based storage service Amazon AWS had an outage which led to major websites and apps going offline for several hours. This outage was due to a human error. An engineer debugging an issue with billing accidentally took more servers offline.

If the Internet was brought to its knees for good, what would you do?

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