An international group, dubbed the "Phonemasters" by the FBI, hacked into the networks of a number of companies including MCI World Com, Sprint, AT&T, and Equifax credit reporters.

The FBI estimates that the gang accounted for approximately .85 million in business losses.

"They had a menu of activities they could perform," says Richard Power, author of , a book chronicling tales of digital crime.

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But the cases listed here have this in common: each marks a significant step in the evolution of hacking.

These hacks show how the law has had to bend or change to catch up with technology, and/or how hackers have achieved new breakthroughs in what they can do.

In 1988, a 23-year-old graduate student at Cornell University, Robert Morris, released the internet's first worm.

To curtail the spread of the infection, many system administrators were forced to cut off their machines from the internet entirely.

In 1990, a federal judge sentenced Morris to 400 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine.

While Morris maintained that he did not intend to cause harm to the networks, he conceded that he did intend to gain access to the affected computer systems.

Under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act of 1986, Morris was found guilty of unauthorized access to a "federal interest computer," which the law defines as a computer that is used exclusively by the federal government or by financial institutions.

Morris, the son of a National Security Agency (NSA) computer security expert, wrote 99 lines of code and released them into the internet as an experiment.

Quickly, Morris discovered that the program was replicating and infecting machines at a much faster rate than he had anticipated.

Invisible tasks were overloading machines around the country and preventing users from using the machines effectively, if at all.

Computers were crashing or becoming unresponsive to commands.