The History of Cybersecurity

In the history of cybersecurity, attacks like ransomware, viruses, and malware were not always a major problem for businesses.  Cybersecurity only came into existence because of the development of viruses.  So, how did we get here?

Where it all began.

In 1969, UCLA professor, Leonard Kleinrock, and student, Charley Kline, sent the first electronic message from the UCLA SDS Sigma 7 Host computer.  The message was to programmer, Bill Duvall, at the Stanford Research Institute.  This is a well-known story and an earth-shaking moment in history for the digital world.  From UCLA, the programmers were supposedly transmitting the word “login.”  The system crashed after they typed the first two letters – lo.  This was pre-Internet, back in the era of ARPANET.  Since then, this story has been almost romanticized with the belief that the programmers typed the beginning of, “lo and behold.”  While factually it is believed that “login” was the intended message, those two letters mark a moment in history.  Those two letters changed the way we communicate with one another.

Later into the 1970’s, Robert (Bob) Thomas was a researcher for BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Thomas created the first computer “worm.”  The distinction between a computer “virus” and a “worm” is the virus’s ability to self-replicate over multiple computer systems.  The first computer worm was called The Creeper.  The Creeper “infected” DEC PDP-10 computers across a network by hopping from system to system with the message “I’M THE CREEPER : CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.”  While it wasn’t particularly active, it was still a computer worm.

Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email, was also working for BBN Technologies at the time.  He created a replicating program called The Reaper.  The Reaper moved through the network of computers, replicated itself, and found copies of The Creeper.  It would then log The Creeper out of the system.  The Reaper is the first anti-virus software as we know it.

Where are we now?

Not long after The Creeper and The Reaper, cyber crimes became more prevalent; often insiders read documents that were off-limits.  As computer software and hardware developed, security breaches followed.  With every new development came an aspect of vulnerability, or a way for hackers to work around methods of protection. In 1986, the Russians were the first to really implement cyberpower as a weapon.  Marcus Hess hacked into 400 military computers, including processors at the Pentagon.  Hess intended to sell secrets to the KGB, but astronomer, Clifford Stoll, caught him before that could happen.

Robert Morris, in 1988, wanted to test the size of the internet with what became the first famous network virus.  He wrote a program that went through networks, invaded Unix terminals, and copied itself.  The Morris worm was so aggressive that the internet slowed down enough to cause significant damage.  Morris was charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  The act itself led to the founding of the Computer Emergency Response Team.  This is a nonprofit research center for issues that could endanger the internet as a whole.  We now know it as US-CERT.

From that point forward, viruses were deadlier, more invasive, and harder to control.  With it came the influx of antivirus companies and software.

So far this year…

We have already experienced cyber incidents on a massive scale, and 2017 isn’t close to over.

The hacking group, the Shadow Brokers, made themselves known in August, 2016, with claims of breaching an NSA-linked operation.  In April, 2017, the group released a trove of alleged NSA tools, one of which was a Windows exploit that hackers used in later ransomware attacks.  Using this Windows exploit, EternalBlue, the WannaCry ransomware attack hit hospitals and other public utilities in the United Kingdom in May.  The attack had embedded flaws which caused it to essentially self-destruct once accessed, but it crippled medical practices in the affected area.  Emergency rooms were fried, medical procedures were delayed, and the affected hospitals were filled with chaos.  In June, the ransomware attack, Petya/NotPetya, infected networks across several countries.  This attack hit larger companies in the U.S., Denmark, and Russia, disrupting power companies, airports, and public transportation.

This is simply to name a few, but these attacks are enough to prove that cybersecurity is a necessity for corporations and small businesses alike.

So, what are you going to do about it?

There is too much at stake to leave your business, customers, and employees defenseless against cyberattacks that continue to grow stronger and more powerful than the average anti-virus software.