The history of cybersecurity

Do you remember a time before cybersecurity? In the past decade we have become so dependent on technology systems and devices that, for many of us, it’s hard to remember when protecting these wasn’t integral to life and progress. But cybersecurity isn’t purely a modern invention – it has been around ever since the first computers started handling data.

1940s. In 1943 the first digital computer was created. It wasn’t networked so threats at the time were relatively low. However, this was also the decade in which the theory of potential computer viruses was developed by one John von Neumann, laying the foundations for cybersecurity as we know it today.

1950s. The origins of hacking are thought to have begun in the 1950s with the trend for ‘phone breaking.’ This meant hijacking protocols that allowed engineers to work at a distance on phone networks so that phone breakers could make no cost calls.

1960s. Computers were still not a product owned by most people and were often large and heavy. However, the tech was developing – and so too was the wherewithal to attack it. The term ‘hacking’ was first used in the 1960s. It was also the decade in which IBM invited students in to track and hack its product, laying the foundation for the defensive strategy that underlies cybersecurity today.

1970s. Most computers still relied on telephone networks for connectivity but the origins of the internet appeared during the 1970s. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the precursor to the internet. This was the decade that large institutions started to do cybersecurity contingency planning and the first cyber criminal was arrested – in 1979, 16 year old Kevin Mitnick hacked a huge digital system called The Ark.

1980s. In 1986 a German hacker managed to infiltrate government systems and access US 400 military computers by piggybacking on ARPANET. This was the first high profile hack and threw security into the spotlight. Especially as the hacker had planned to sell military secrets to the KGB. A year later, the first commercial antivirus products were released – just in time as the Vienna virus, one of the first forms of malware, was also unleashed.

1990s. With the internet now firmly entrenched and the tech industry on overdrive, this was the decade when cyber security increased exponentially. The first virus to mutate as it infects was developed and hackers started using tools, such as freebies to reach new victims – the Diskkiller virus was delivered via a disk that came free with PC Today magazine. The internet was evolving too – Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to protect activities such as online buying was created in 1995.

2000s. Most homes now had computers and the internet was growing, fast. The first hacker group – Anonymous – was established and gained prominence when it hacked The Church of Scientology. Credit card attacks, email attacks and state-sponsored hacking all began to gain attention during the 2000s. As a result a range of new detection and security measures also arrived, from Network Behavioural Analysis to web application firewalls.

This brief history of cybersecurity shows just how far we’ve come in a few decades. You can do more to protect your business today, and for the future, with comprehensive cybersecurity in place.

You can find more information on our cyber security services on our Cyber Security page.

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