The 1983 movie WarGames gave us insight to the world of computer hacking as Matthew Broderick almost started World War III because of his desire to play a new video game. While hacking was once synonymous with nerdy teenagers, large companies like Target and SONY Pictures will argue that it has come much farther than that. Major cyber crimes are being committed and breaches in online security are becoming more commonplace. Criminals are so smart that they can decrypt personal data and destroy people’s identity with the design of malicious software. To understand how this happened, let’s take a look at how computer hacking has evolved over the years.
The 1960’s-1970’s Hackers
Essentially the term “hack” has always meant a shortcut that doesn’t necessarily solve a problem well or in a good way.In the 1960’s, a group of computer science students used the term “hacking” that they took from model train lovers who altered or “hacked” switches and tracks to make them run better. These new hackers were learning ways to change computer software and hardware to make it faster. The worst crimes committed during this period were free long-distance phone calls. It was discovered that by blowing a particular high-pitch whistle tone into the phone, 2600-hertz, AT&T’s long-distance switching system could be accessed. This became so popular that hackers were engineering special boxes with a whistle that came free in cereal boxes to make free calls. The FBI eventually caught on and started cracking down on wire fraud.
The 1980’s Golden Age of Hacking
The 1980’s were considered the “Golden Age” of hacking because of the increase in sales of home personal computers that were able to talk to one another via the phone network. Kids were breaking into any computer system they could, often just to be able to say they did and to explore. Low-grade “crimes” were committed like printing out lots of paper at a business. Hackers were meeting up on digital hangouts to share passwords and advice on breaking into systems. After WarGames premiered, the FBI went on high alert and caught six Milwaukee teens who actually hacked into a nuclear weapon research facility.
Hacking Gets Criminal
By the late 80’s, the FBI was really catching on to hackers and Congress passed a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, making breaking into computer systems a crime. This didn’t stop anything. In 1989 German hackers whop worked for Russia’s KGB were found hacking into the Pentagon. Employees were even destroying company systems as revenge for being fired.
Today’s Dangerous Hackers
As the Internet evolved and systems became more sophisticated, so did the hackers. No longer are they curious and playing games, they are out for blood and extremely dangerous. Major companies have had security breaches, exposing credit card information, social security numbers and e-mail addresses of millions. This information is sold to the highest bidder on the black market. Computer viruses are used by the government to diffuse their enemies’ nuclear programs. The White House has been hacked, Russia used hackers to coordinate their attack on Georgia in 2008, and one of America’s largest insurance companies, Anthem was hacked into, affecting over 80 million customers. Today’s hackers are the most dangerous kind and one has to wonder what the future holds as we go more and more digital every day.