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This Week in Bug/Virus/Breach History

To learn from the future, we must first learn the past ...

Welcome to a new column here at QualiTest, the anniversaries of things that were preventable.  This week begins with March 26, a date you may know for the Melissa Virus, or for the beginning of the end for a space satellite.

On March 26, 1999, a Word document was mass-emailed with the social engineering enticing message of “Here is the document you asked me for … do not show it to anyone”.  Using simplified AI, it not only included the sender’s name in the subject (“Important message from ‘sender-name'”), Melissa.A was the first virus to grab names from Outlook’s address book (the first 50) for spreading the virus, an action we are no longer find surprising.  It would end up causing $80 million dollars worth of damage to American companies, who minimized the damage by shutting off their company internet.  By March 29, over 100,000 computers were infected, and Microsoft actually blocked outgoing emails company-wide.  This early steppingstone in computer viruses helped us get to today’s cyber security.

On February 17, 2016, the 2,700 kg ASTRO-H X-ray astronomy satellite was launched.  On March 25th, the satellite re-oriented.  The less accurate of the 2 systems for telemetry falsely detected a 21.7 degree per hour roll that would need to be countered.  The more accurate method was offline because the satellite had not been tracking astronomical data at the time of the maneuver.  By the time the craft realized that it was spinning out of control (now into March 26), attempts to orient to the sun for the solar panels and to thrust orientation and to fire thrusters were unsuccessful.  Also, debris was detected as having broken off of the main craft.  The last of 3 brief transmissions was received on March 28.  Obviously, better planning for aerospace testing was needed.

Next week begins with the discovery of the Heartbleed security bug, on April 1, 2014.

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