There’s nothing like an apocalypse to whip the web into a frenzy. As you’ve likely seen by the many dramatic headlines, thousands of people whose computers are infected with an especially vicious piece of malware will be cut off from the Internet on Monday. That’s when the FBI will shut down temporary internet servers that it set up to help computers infected with DNSChanger stay online. It’s estimated to affect 64,000 computers in the U.S. and 300,000 worldwide. (If you’re not sure if one of those computers belongs to you, you can look here and here for directions to check it out.)
But it’s not the first time a single day has been connected with disaster for the Web. For your pre-doomsday pleasure, here are five more…
March 26, 1999
One of the very first email viruses, Melissa quickly spread around the world on March 26, 1999, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage. So the story goes, the virus was named for an exotic dancer with whom the creator of the virus, David L. Smith, was obsessed. Ultimately, the amount of damage it caused was minimal, but it led several large companies to shut down their Internet connections to the rest of the world.
January 1, 2000
More than $300 billion was reportedly spent in preparation for the anticipated Y2K calamity. Articles, books and TV reports buzzed on about how to survive the “millenium bug.” But January 1, 2000, went by with barely a peep. As the Chicago Tribune wrote at the time: “Y2K bug is an old acquaintance most would like to forget.“
May 4, 2000
By the time the “I Love You” virus (or the “Love Bug”) circled the globe, it had infected 55 million computers and caused billions of dollars in damage. According to security software company Symantec (which gave the virus the No. 1 spot on its list of top viruses a few years ago), the CIA and the British parliament had to shut down their e-mail systems to get rid of the threat. Although it continued to spread, May 4, 2000, is the day it hit the U.S..
April 1, 2009
Timed to activate on April Fool’s Day, the Conficker worm drew headlines from across the Internet, as people wondered if it was just a prank or a devious plot to take down the Internet. On the day itself, there weren’t any major catastrophes, but, later on, reports bubbled up of Conficker-related computer problems. It was said to have infected between 9 and 15 million computers.
Sept. 9, 2010
In actual magnitude, this wasn’t an especially dark day for the Internet, but it still got plenty of attention. Over the course of the day, the ‘Here You Have’ email virus spread around the world, hitting the networks of major organizations like Disney, NASA, Comcast, AIG and Proctor & Gamble. The virus was relatively harmless in that it just spammed inboxes (although, in some cases, so forcefully that employees were no longer able to use email), but it led to some apocalyptic humor on Twitter. “The world is coming to an end. The ‘here you have’ email virus just took down times square,” joked one person. NASA’s Lunar Science Institute tweeted, “Houston, we have a problem… it’s called spam.”