The Birth of Cybersecurity – Security Boulevard

The Birth of Cybersecurity – Security Boulevard

Now that we’re more than a week into October, it’s time to celebrate the birthday — well, birth month — of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The goal of Cybersecurity Awareness Month is to help individuals protect themselves from threats designed to digitally steal their confidential information. The theme for this year’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month is See yourself in Cyber, which emphasizes that cybersecurity is really about people, not technology. Also the need for more professionals in cyber security. Several studies estimate that the unemployment rate for cybersecurity professionals is around 0%. It’s not a typo. In other words, if you’re a cybersecurity professional, you won’t have a tough time getting hired.

In honor of the 18th year of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it’s time to look back at the beginnings of cybersecurity.

In the beginning…

As with most great inventions, it didn’t take long for someone to create a threat. Although the first threat did not create much of one, it gave way to the first cyber security term that is still widely used today – hacking.

Hacking as we know it did not involve computers, but MIT’s Model Railroad Club, which was created to promote model railroading among MIT students. Yes it is true. A group of members hacked into their system to change and adjust the functionality of advanced model trains and locomotives. Although the hacking was innocent enough – they weren’t out to make money or spread a virus – a new name and its definition was born. It was several years before the first threatening attack was launched.

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Today’s Internet began as ARPANET (The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)) in the early 1970s. It was, like today’s internet, a network of computers. A man named Bob Thomas theorized that to networked computers each one would have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs that would reveal the journey. He was right, and discovered as much after creating and distributing a computer program called Creeper. Although it sounds threatening, it was not, but more of an innocent game of cat and mouse. It left the message I’m the Creeper: Catch Me If You Can on connected computers. A man named Ray Tomlinson took him up on the challenge.

Tomlinson, who was later credited as the inventor of e-mail, developed a program he called Reaper. It was essentially the first antivirus software. Tomlinson designed the Reaper to replicate itself and in doing so track down the Creeper. It did. If that sounds like a worm, it was. Yes, the computer worm, which became famous in the 1980s, was born.

While Reaper was innocent enough, it did not go unnoticed by the US government. They wondered what would happen if a Creeper-like program infected their systems. What would that mean for national security? Their daunting question resulted in the creation of The Protection Analysis Project. It identified suspected vulnerabilities and the potential for automation to uncover them.

The first cybercriminals

It was not until the late 1970s that the first cyber criminals were discovered and brought to justice. From his bedroom, 16-year-old Kevin Mitnick hacked into The Ark, a system at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). DEC was the first corporate victim of cybercrime. The Ark created operating systems and Mitnick was able to hack into it and make copies of its proprietary software.

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Along with law enforcement, Mitnick’s story was also attended by two screenwriters – Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes. They wrote the 1983s war games, a film that became a blockbuster and left audiences wondering if the fictional story was a sign of things to come.

The worm gained steam in the late 1980s by Cornwell University student Robert Morris. He was curious about the size of the internet, so he invented a worm to provide the answer. His worm, which was never given a name, would replicate itself while infecting UNIX systems. This vulnerability allowed Morris to measure connections on the internet. However, Morris mistakenly created a programming bug that spread across computers, infecting each. Yes, using the word “infect” took on an additional definition.

Morris was the first person convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. He was given 3 years probation and fined $10,000. However, his crime did not get in the way of his career – he eventually became a professor at the prestigious MIT.

The perfect first step to raising your cybersecurity posture

To further your cyber threat education and learn how to combat today’s attacks, contacting the cybersecurity experts at Radware is the perfect first step. Their empirical experience and expertise in delivering Redware’s award-winning solutions has for years helped to secure the digital experience of large and small businesses all over the world. You can contact them HERE. They would love to hear from you.

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