Cyber security is a hot topic these days. It’s the cyber-equivalent of personal security and, as you can imagine, cyber security has been around for quite some time. In this blog post, we will explore the cyber-security history and uncover how cyber warfare started, what cyber vulnerabilities are and why they’re such a problem today.
Cybersecurity is important because it protects all categories of data from theft and damage. This includes:
- sensitive data;
- personally identifiable information (PII);
- protected health information (PHI);
- personal information;
- intellectual property;
- governmental and industry information systems.
As cyber warfare became more and more prominent, cyber security grew as a necessity. In the past few decades, people have tried to protect themselves from cybercriminals – both from external threats and internal ones (rogue employees). Cyber-security history is very rich with events that shaped how we approach cyber safety today. Let’s start at the beginning of it all: World War II.
World War II
Just like any other war through the course of human history, cyber wars were inevitable. The first recorded cyberattack happened in 1944 when German forces attempted to disrupt radio communications by sending false messages over telephone lines using an Enigma machine modified for this purpose. Another example would be Operation Quicksilver which was meant to deceive the Axis powers and make them believe that the invasion of Europe would come from the Pas de Calais rather than Normandy. The operation was carried out by planting false material, disguised as official German communications, in order to deceive the Germans into believing the real target was Calais while it actually was Normandy where troops landed on D-Day. These cyber warfare examples show how cyberattacks were used during World War II but there is no evidence proving these cyber offensives caused any significant damage or casualties (at least not recorded).
In 1962, US military scientists developed a communication system known as AUTODIN. It allowed for encrypted messages to be sent between various different command centers without fear of being intercepted and decoded by an outside party. The US military used the system until 1998 when it was replaced by a more secure communication platform.
AUTODIN as an encrypted cyber communication system shows how cyber security history is closely connected to cyber warfare and cyber espionage events of the past century. When we look at cyber-security history, we see that there were many different types of cyberattacks: information theft (cyber espionage), malware infections, and denial-of-service (DOS) attacks which could bring down your business IT infrastructure for hours or even days if you’re unlucky enough to be hit with such an attack. While these examples are just some real-life case scenarios where companies had to deal with their systems being taken over by attackers, they show what kinds of threats businesses face every day.
In the cyber security history timeline of the 80’s we see that cyber warfare was at its peak in terms of cyber attacks carried out by malicious agents (nation-states, cybercriminals, or hacktivists). The first known malware infection occurred in 1982 when Creeper infected ARPANET – a military computer network. It is important to note how this early example of malware infection had no intention of stealing information but instead, it simply replicated itself over and over again using system resources which caused them to slow down considerably. This shows just one more proof for why cyber safety is so important even though it might not seem like an immediate need. When you’re hit with such an attack you can lose customers, orders, or even be shut down completely.
The cyber security history timeline goes on to show that cyber warfare was present throughout the ‘90s with government-sponsored cyber-espionage having its peak in 1998. This is when US spies hacked into over 280,000 computers located all around the world (mainly China) stealing information which allowed them to use cyber attacks as tools of retaliation against foreign forces who were hostile towards America at the time. These types of cyberattacks are still popular today but they became more sophisticated and therefore harder to track due to better encryption methods being used by governments and cybercriminals alike. Another interesting fact about this era would be how it also presented a whole new type of malicious agent – hacktivists, cyber attackers who have a specific cyberattack motive that is not necessarily profit-driven (such as cybercriminals) or politically motivated like cyber espionage and cyber warfare.
The next year would bring about the first documented example of cyber terrorism. In July 2001, an unknown group is known as “The Cutting Sword of Justice” hacked into Sony’s PlayStation Network and stole data belonging to more than 100 million customers. This type of cybercrime was different from any other because it actually threatened physical safety such as public health by stealing customer credit card information which could be used for identity theft purposes later on. To make matters worse, this particular hacking event led to multiple class-action lawsuits against Sony due to its negligence in protecting private customer data.
While the cyber security history timeline did not present any new cyber attack concepts in the following decade, it did bring back cyber espionage and cyber warfare events of the past. However, this time cyber attacks were way more sophisticated due to malware like Stuxnet (2010) which targeted industrial control systems used for electricity grids around the world. This particular malware was one of a kind because instead of using system resources to replicate itself over and over again without causing too much damage, it actually caused physical machinery harm by shutting down nuclear power plants or even destroying their functionality completely. There are many other examples that could be presented on how cyber safety has evolved throughout our technological era but what is really important here is understanding why you need cyber security protection in 2018.
Below are some of the most common types of cyber-attacks:
- Man-in-the-middle attack (MITM);
- Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack;
- SQL injection;
- Zero-day exploit;
- DNS Tunnelling.
Cyber Security is very important because cybercriminals and cyberspies are always looking for new ways to hack into systems. This has led to cyber security history evolving from simple malware infections like Creeper (1982) or even self-replicating viruses such as Code Red (2001) which only used the system resources in order to spread themselves all around but cyber safety measures have evolved alongside them by using more sophisticated types of defense mechanisms such as firewalls, anti-virus programs, and other protection tools that monitor your internet activity in real-time and blacklist any suspicious websites that might lead you towards a potential cyber attack.