Hacking around the globe has a long, chequered history and it didn’t begin yesterday, or even at the emergence of the 21st century. Instead, it dates back to at least 40 years. Today, the term “hacker” is often associated with a highly negative connotation, conjuring up pictures of cyber thieves’ intent on letting disruptive viruses move around the cyberspace and stealing identities. However, in reality, computer hackers were actually considered by the society as technology enthusiasts who only wanted to customize, optimize and tinker. With the birth of cybercrime and viruses, the conventional hackers got grouped together with those with evil intent and the general vilification of hacking started. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the world’s greatest hackers who led the path.
John Draper – 1971
When hacking first began, it wasn’t thought of as that serious. The first major hacking occurred in 1971 with John Draper, a Vietnam vet. He legendarily discovered a way to make long distance phone calls for free, which was called “phreaking” later. This phreaker subculture not only helped influential hackers (such as Draper) but even opened up avenues for other digital visionaries. In fact, before they founded Apple Inc., Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were modest phone phreakers.
Morris Worm – 1988
In 1988, the internet came crashing down to a great extent. A 22-year old graduate student from Cornell, Robert Tappan Morris had distributed a worm through the internet that infected significant percentage of computers on the WWW (though there were few computers on the internet that time). Eventually, Morris became the first person who became indicted under the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act. The same law is still used to indict most hacking crimes in the U.S. He was sentenced to 3 years probation together with 400 hours of community service.
David L. Smith – 1999
Developed as a macro virus, the Melissa virus can be considered as a milestone in virus development. It used macros to perform its mischievous work while staying embedded in MS Office documents. Smith was also caught and prosecuted. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In reaction to both cybercriminals and hacktivists, government entities, as well as big corporations, are continually striving to improve security while the computer giants work rigorously to tweak the systems. However, while systems continue to be upgraded, technology continues to be innovated and security experts continue to be recruited, the significance of white hackers will only become even more important, making them the most critical and valuable assets in the cyber domain.