How the World’s First “Cyberattack” Looked Over 200 Years Ago



If you’re like most people, you probably think that cyberattacks began with the invention of the computer. In reality, they began way before then. In the 1830s, two French brothers: Francois and Joseph Blanc, committed the first telecommunications fraud. The brothers were bankers working at the stock exchange in Bordeaux, trading primarily in Government bonds. The movements of these bonds were influenced heavily by what was happening further North in Paris. There was one problem though, messages on these market movements took about five days to reach Bordeaux. Anyone who could get details on the market movements ahead of their rivals stood to make a fortune. Many had tried, even using carrier pigeons, but the Blanc brothers came up with a way of sending messages by “hacking" the telecommunications network of the day. The fraud worked for two years and, despite their rivals suspecting something was happening, the actual means of their success was only uncovered when one of the bribed signalers confessed on his death bed. The brothers and their co-conspirators were arrested in 1836, but it seemed luck was on their side once again. Despite the communication towers being for government use only, there were no actual laws in place prohibiting their use for the sending of personal messages. The brothers ended up walking away free men and new laws were quickly put into place.