GUEST ESSAY – Notable events in hacking history that helped transform cybersecurity assessment

By April Miller

Assessing the risks involved in using the latest technology is something our culture had to adopt in the early days of the computer. New technologies come with risks — there’s no denying that.

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Miller

To minimize their impact, implementing preventive security measures into these advanced systems is crucial. Businesses across all industries can function adequately without worrying about would-be hackers with malicious intent when they secure their networks.

Phishing scams, malware, ransomware and data breaches are just some of the examples of cyberthreats that can devastate business operations and the protection of consumer information.

Here are five notable historical events that influenced cybersecurity assessment and transformed it into what it is today:

The Battle of Midway (1942)

After the devastating blow of Pearl Harbor, U.S. military officials hired data analysts to crack the Japanese secret code known as JN-25.

After analysts cracked the code, Commander Joseph Rochefort could relay the Japanese Navy’s future plans to Admiral Chester Nimitz. As a result, the U.S. Navy intercepted Japanese forces before reaching the critical island base, Midway.

This was considered a significant win for the U.S. military and the analysts who worked to gather intelligence and relay these critical, decoded messages to prevent further attack. It foreshadowed how encryption would come to be used as a foundation for Internet commerce – by companies and criminals. Today companies face a challenge of identifying and deflecting encrypted traffic leveraged by malicious actors.

The Creeper Virus (1971)

In 1971, researcher Bob Thomas and his team at BBN Technologies created a virus that was later coined the “Creeper” worm. It spread across the ARPANET, the modern internet’s predecessor. The worm displayed messages on infected computers stating, “I’M THE CREEPER, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.”

The Creeper worm would jump from one computer to another. It was initially considered something that would illustrate a mobile application rather than cause damage. Installed printers were rendered useless due to the worm — the virus did this by locating computers on the local network, transferring itself, printing the message and repeating the process.

Because computers were still under development, viruses were still in their infancy. This instance provided researchers with more information about computer science tech and how it can cause damage to computers in the future.

The Morris Worm (1988)

The 1980s proved to be tumultuous for computer science professionals and those working to develop this life-changing technology.

The Morris worm was created by researcher Robert Morris and was considered one of the earliest forms of malware. It was unleashed on the internet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and began infecting computers at various universities.

While no data was destroyed or compromised, emails experienced severe delays, and military and university operations halted. Because the internet was still in its infancy, the damage was not as devastating as it would be today.

The ILOVEYOU Worm (2000)

The turn of the millennium included the spreading of the ILOVEYOU worm, also called the Love Bug. In 10 days, the virus infected as many as 10% of internet-connected computers around the globe.

Users received an email with a malicious attachment, and if opened, it would cause data to be deleted, computers to crash and cost a total of $10 billion in damage.

The news of this fast-spreading computer virus dominated headlines, and the creator, Onel de Guzman, was arrested for committing this cybercrime.

Lessons learned

It’s certainly interesting for business leaders today to learn more about the history of cybersecurity incidents. It’s clear that when technology develops, people find creative ways to cause mass disruption, increasing the need for antivirus protection and firewalls.

Businesses and consumers have to assess cybersecurity risks to protect their assets and private information. Plenty of people worldwide try to hack into networks and retrieve sensitive information to commit further crimes, like identity theft or fraud.

Implementing preventive cybersecurity measures is necessary for companies and citizens if they want to mitigate the risk of a cyber incident.

About the essayist: April Miller is a staff writer at ReHack Magazine. While she enjoys tackling topics across the technology space, she’s most passionate about educating readers on cybersecurity and Big Data

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