The Evolution of Data Breaches: From Simple Hacks to Cyber Espionage

Posted by Sabrina Sturm Thu, 06 Jun 2013 13:10:00 GMT

Awareness of targeted cyber hacks has increased since the revelation of the hacking campaign against the New York Times. Hacking has been happening since the development of the first computers and has evolved into a national security threat. 

Here’s a short timeline outlining some of the key events in the last five decades of computer hacking:

1960s and 1970s — The1960s were the dawn of hacking as the first computer hackers emerged at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the 1970s, phone hackers broke into regional and international phone networks to make free calls. The future founders of Apple, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, launched a home industry making and selling blue boxes, devices generating a high pitched tone that accessed AT&T’s long-distance switching system.

1980s — Phone hackers slowly began to move into the realm of computer hacking as the first online message boards and exclusive groups formed. In the wake of increased hacks into government and corporate computers, Congress passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 1986. This act made hacking a crime, but it did not include juveniles. In 1989, the first cyber espionage case made international headlines with hackers in West Germany arrested for breaking into U.S. government and corporate computers and selling operating system source code to the Soviet KGB.

1990s — The internet took off with the introduction of Netscape Navigator, which made information more accessible. This new platform allowed hackers to share information and new tools for hacking and the face of hacking began to change. With an increased number of illegal hacks and heightened tensions with hacking groups, the mainstream use of software security became prominent in 1999 and security software vendors began releasing anti-hacking products for use on home computers.

2000s — The infamous ILOVEYOU Worm infected millions of computers within a few hours.  The worm flooded millions of mailboxes as e-mail users clicked on an attachment called LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs.  This worm is considered to be one of the most damaging viruses ever. The research firm Computer Economics estimated that the total damage costs exceeded $5 billion. Beyond this virus, Microsoft became a prominent victim of viruses and hacks—an issue the company will struggle with for years to come.

Today — Data breaches occur daily and elite hacker groups continue to threaten our systems. With even the most sophisticated security infrastructures implemented, it is predicted that cyber attacks may become one of the greatest national security threats.  

This timeline does not even begin to cover all of the hacks that have occurred in the past 50 years. Are there any notable events that we missed? How do you see the future of hacking? Please share your thoughts and comments in the comments below. 

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