Nowadays, the term “hacking” has mostly a negative connotation, but it was not always so. At the dawn of the computer era, hackers were considered experts in the field of technology, and their main motivation was to configure and optimize systems. With the development of cybercrime, increasing complexity and widespread hacker attacks, the term “hacking” has become mainly associated with malicious actions. Let’s briefly recall the history of hacking.
The term “hacking” comes from the MIT Technical Model Railroad Club. Members of the club “hacked” their own high-tech trains in order to change their functions. Later, they moved from toy trains to computers, experimenting with the IBM 704 and trying to expand the set of tasks that computers could perform. Early hackers studied, expanded, and tested the limitations of existing programs. Their efforts often paid off because they created programs that worked better than existing ones.
Computer hacking continued in the 1970s, but phone hacking began to develop in parallel. Telephone scammers, also called phreakers, tried to exploit the performance characteristics of the telephone switching network, which has recently become completely electronic. John Draper became famous when he discovered that a toy whistle found in Cap’n Crunch flakes makes a sound exactly the same as the sound indicating to long lines that the line is ready and available for routing a new call (2600 hertz). This allowed phone scammers to cheat the network and make free long-distance calls. It was also reported that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were phone scammers before they founded one of the most successful computer companies in the world.
In the 1980s, the use of personal computers was no longer limited to enterprises and universities – their accessibility to the public increased, which led to a significant increase in the number of cases of computer hacking. The nature of hacking has also changed. Previously, hacking was often caused by attempts to improve computer performance, but the new generation of hackers was primarily motivated by personal gain, and their actions included the creation of pirated programs, viruses and hacking systems to steal information. Law enforcement agencies have realized a new reality, and a federal law on combating computer fraud and abuse has been adopted in the United States.
As a result of the disclosure of several high-profile cybercrimes and arrests, hacking gained a negative reputation in the 1990s. Among the famous hackers of this decade were Kevin Mitnick, Kevin Poulsen, Robert Morris and Vladimir Levin; they were convicted of various crimes: from stealing copyrighted software and cheating radio stations in order to win expensive cars to launching the first computer worm and committing the first digital bank robbery.
Government agencies and large corporations were increasingly exposed to hacking of cybersecurity systems. The most famous of them are Microsoft, eBay, Yahoo! and Amazon. All of them were victims of distributed denial of service attacks. It is known that the systems of the US Department of Defense and the International Space Station were hacked by a 15-year-old teenager.
The Internet has taken a prominent part in everyday life, as a result of which hacking has become more sophisticated than ever before. New cyber threats began to appear regularly. During this decade, the Anonymous hacktivist group gained notoriety by exposing government secrets and carrying out cyberattacks that, in their opinion, contributed to the interests of society. As a response to the actions of hacktivists and to the growing level of cybercrime, governments, large corporations and computer giants are working hard to protect their systems. Cybersecurity experts continue to innovate, which allows them to be one step ahead of hackers.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hacking
Hacking is a
broad term describing a set of actions aimed at compromising computers and networks by identifying and then exploiting weaknesses in the security system. Hacking is not always the result of malicious actions, but the term itself has acquired a negative connotation due to its frequent use in the context of cybercrime.
What types of hacks are there?
Hackers can be divided into categories depending on their goals: Black Hats, White Hats and Gray Hats. These terms originate in American westerns, where the main characters wore white or light hats, and negative characters wore black hats. In fact, the type of hacker is determined by his motivation and whether he violates the law. Black Hat hackers are considered intruders, and White Hat hackers are considered ethical hackers. Gray Hat hackers occupy an intermediate position. The link provides a more detailed description of the types of hackers.
What is ethical hacking?
Ethical hacking is the identification of weak points in computer systems and networks in order to subsequently develop countermeasures to eliminate these vulnerabilities, as opposed to exploiting discovered vulnerabilities, as happens with malicious hacking. Its task is to increase overall security.
Ethical hackers act with the permission of the owner of the hacked computer system or network. They report all identified vulnerabilities to the system owner, as well as inform hardware and software vendors about them. Ethical hackers protect the privacy of the hacked organization.