Technology has advanced thanks to the hard work and innovation of many people over several decades throughout history. Although information technology – the application of any computers and software to process, store, retrieve, and transmit electronic data – is a major part of our lives today, there was a simpler time before the revolutionary spark of digitization. Few predicted how significant information technology and IT security would become in our lives and the way we conduct business. Here is an overview of the development of IT security throughout history.
The 1970s marked a time in information technology history that saw an emergence in the exploration of microcomputers. At this time, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak – pioneers of the personal computer revolution – met and eventually collaborated on what would become Apple computers. The first modern day hackers also appeared during this time and invented a way to circumvent phone systems to make free calls – a practice that later become known as “phreaking.” It was this decade that witnessed the convergence of technology and commerce. Computers, video games, cars, and space exploration are only a few of the many technologies which developed and improved tremendously within these ten years.
There are a surprising number of tech gadgets from the 80s that define life as we know it today. The first IBM personal computer, called “Acorn,” was introduced using Microsoft’s MS-DOS operating system. Sears & Roebuck and Computerland sold the machines, and this was when the term PC was popularized.
Apple invented “Lisa,” the first personal computer to offer a GUI (graphical user interface), with features like a drop-down menu and icons in a machine aimed at individual business users. In 1985, Microsoft announced Windows in response to Apple’s GUI. This decade subsequently brought about the era of malware, with the first computer virus for MS-DOS called “Brian.”
Mosaic, known as the original web browser accredited to popularizing the World Wide Web, was released. By allowing users with little to no technical expertise to browse the online realm, this fueled a period of massive growth of the Internet as well as the community of online users. The 1990s also brought upon the dawn of the modern IT security industry. AOL suffered through the first real phishing attacks as hackers began stealing users’ credentials. Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at a high-energy physics lab in Geneva, invented HyperText Markup Language (HTML) – giving rise to the World Wide Web.
In 1997, Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple – which was struggling at the time – ending Apple’s court case against Microsoft in which it alleged that Microsoft copied the “look and feel” of its operating system.
The 2000s and Beyond
The 21st Century saw a swarm of new computer viruses, such as ILOVEYOU, spread fervently across the Internet, taking advantage of security holes in software made by Microsoft and other major tech companies. Adware and spyware entered the scene with programs such as Conducent and CometCursor. In 2003, the amount of data created surpassed the amount of all information created in the rest of human history combined. The Internet became so central to commerce that opportunities for hackers grew exponentially.
In 2010, a group of the nation’s top scientists concluded in a report to the Pentagon that “the cyber-universe is complex well beyond anyone’s understanding and exhibits behavior that no one predicted, and sometimes can’t even be explained well.” In 2015, Apple released the Apple Watch while Microsoft released Windows 10.