Cybersecurity has become a common concern in human culture. We are always worried about keeping our information secure, protecting our devices from viruses, and avoiding online scams.
But when was cyber security created? When did digital threats begin to emerge, and how does our response to them get figured out? You might even wonder, why was cyber security created?
It wasn’t an overnight development, that’s for sure. In fact, cybersecurity started as a way for developers to make computers better, then evolved into a requirement to protect vulnerabilities from criminals. Here’s how hacking went from a hobby to a crime—and what you can do to help protect others in the decade ahead.
1950s: Phone Phreaks Start the Hacking Mindset
In the 1950’s, phones were the cutting-edge of technology. Just like computers today, many passionate enthusiasts started exploring the phone system as a hobby. Phreaks learned to control the phone lines by listening to the sounds as calls were connected by operators, reading phone company technical journals, and even breaking into offices to develop their own hardware. Though landline phones were a far more basic technology than a computer or smartphone today, the phone phreaks were starting the hacking mindset before there was a computer around to hack.
1960s: Early Computers, Early Hacking
In this era, computers were giant mainframes, locked in rooms, and closed to access by all but a select few. Hacking developed as a positive practice intended to help computer systems improve. For instance, a group of high school students invited to IBM to try out a new computer ended up gaining access to more of the system than intended. This resulted in some of the first ideas for defensive programs that could stop hackers.
1970s: Creeper and Reaper, Oh My!
The phone phreaks, still around in the 1970s, ultimately gave hacking a bad name as they “hacked” the phone system to make free long-distance calls and pull pranks. This made the general public aware of the idea of hacking. At the same time, the first computer worm, a software capable of moving between devices on a network, was created by Robert Thomas. Called Creeper, it left behind the message “I’m the Creeper, catch me if you can.” Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email, quickly created Reaper, the first antivirus software, to catch Creeper.
1980’s: Cybersecurity Gets Real
Though it started as fun thought-experiments among colleagues, hacking became an issue of national security in the 1980’s. What was the first cyber crime? A German hacker used a computer gateway in California to hack into 400 military computers, including the Pentagon mainframe. The hacker intended to sell this information to the KGB, but the plot was foiled by cybersecurity legend Cliff Stoll.
How was the first cyber attack discovered? A 75-cent accounting discrepancy was the thread Stoll followed to become aware of the pending crime. Computer worms intended to exploit system vulnerabilities became more common and more impactful.
1990’s: Viruses and Malware Explode
Do you remember a time before every household had a computer? If so, you know that ended in the 1990’s. The Internet quickly went from a professional tool used by academics and governments to a resource that would redefine the culture of all humanity. Along with this amazing innovation, the threat of cybercrime also became real to each member of the public. The development of mutating code helped these viruses spread. Email was especially vulnerable to early viruses like I LOVE YOU and Melissa, which caused failures of email worldwide and remain some of the most famously harmful viruses even today. Malicious email attachments became a matter of public knowledge, and antivirus solutions like Norton and AVG became common household names.
2000’s: Cloud Cybersecurity Emerges
Once computers were common in schools, offices, homes, and businesses, the scene was set for some of the biggest cyber attacks in history. The Zeus Trojan used keylogging to steal $70 million through stolen banking details from consumers. Criminal apps and malicious software were evolving faster than the security solutions to defeat them. Users could now be infected by a virus just from visiting an infected webpage—no download required. The rate of new viruses being developed meant threat detection by antivirus software fell to 20-30%. By the late 2000s, cloud-based anti-malware security was being integrated into operating systems and anti-virus solutions alike, to update the virus database and react to new threats in real-time.
2010’s: Next-Gen Cybersecurity
In 2013, Mandiant released a report that revealed how vulnerable the intellectual property of American companies was to theft from other nations like China. Breaches at organizations like Target, Sony Pictures, Community Health Systems, and the US Government made headlines and history with their implications. Ransomware also became a concern as criminals took the networks and data of organizations hostage—the biggest cyberattack ever, dubbed NotPetya, was perpetrated against Maersk and its massive shipping fleet to disastrous effects in 2017. New cybersecurity approaches and strategies like multi-factor authentication, network behavioral analysis, update automations, and advances in digital forensics mean even as threats have grown larger, the response by cybersecurity professionals has also grown more effective.
What’s Next in Cybersecurity? Learn Skills to Get a Cybersecurity Job at Eleven Fifty Academy
In our current decade, cyber attacks will only grow more malicious—and a tech job skills shortage in fields like cybersecurity means the biggest limit to our ability to stay safe is the talent to make it happen.
That’s why Eleven Fifty Academy is committed to increasing the cybersecurity talent pool by providing low-cost, high-quality cybersecurity training. We eliminate barriers to access that might stop nontraditional students from entering the field of cybersecurity. If you are curious about starting a career in cybersecurity, or even changing your career to cyber security, we want to help.