February 18, 2015
Instructor: Prof. Holt
In June 1903 John Ambrose Fleming, a British physicist, and engineer, performed a demonstration of the latest radio technology—the wireless telegraph—at the prestigious Royal Institution in London. Developed by the celebrated Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, the wireless telegraph sent messages across long distances by Morse code. During the highly-anticipated demonstration, Marconi would transmit a coded message to Fleming from another wireless telegraph nearly 300 miles away in Cornwall, England. Marconi and Fleming aimed to showcase the state-of-the-art technology to the best and brightest of London's scientific and engineering community.
Before the demonstration was set to begin, however, the telegraph furiously began to type out one word repeatedly: "Rats!" It then transcribed a poem: "There was a young fellow of Italy / who diddled the public quite prettily." The lecture hall erupted, and both Marconi and Fleming were outraged and embarrassed. Marconi had bragged that the wireless telegraph was a completely secure technology, and he had been proven wrong in front of a number of amused colleagues. It was also one of the first cases of hacking in recorded history.
Four days later, the hacker revealed himself in a letter to The Times, an English newspaper. Its author was Nevil Maskelyne, a British hall musician and inventor frustrated with Marconi's patents on wireless technology, which hindered his work in that area. His hacking not only got revenge and publicity but revealed flaws in the technology that could comprise transmissions and intercept supposedly secure messages.
Computer hacking can be traced back to the 1960s when a group of model train enthusiasts.("History of hacking," n.d.) At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology became interested in the large mainframe computers installed at the University (Palmer, 2001). Calling themselves hackers, a term that they had invented after hacking their electronic trains and switches to improve their performance. They began to experiment with and modify computer programs to customize them for specific applications or investigate how they put them together. They formulated shortcuts and improvements of their own, creating more efficient programs in many cases. At that time, hacker was a positive term that described a resourceful person who displayed impressive computer programming skills. For years, hacking was limited to a small group of computer enthusiasts because computers were not available to the general public.
It wasn't until the 1980s and the proliferation of personal computers that hacking became a widespread practice. As individuals purchased computers and set up modems to communicate with other computers over telephone lines, the potential for motivated, curious, and resourceful people to play with the technology skyrocketed. Electronic bulletin boards allowed hackers to post tips on how to gain access to protected networks and share stolen computer passwords. (Coffin, 2003) In 1983, the film War Games popularized the idea of hacking. The film followed the exploits of a young hacker who manages to get access to the US government's military supercomputer and almost starts World War III.
In one of the first major cases of computer hacking, a group of six teenagers from Milwaukee, who met as members of a local scouting troop found that they had a common interest in hacking. After gaining access to dozens of highly secure and classified computer systems. Including Los Alamos National Laboratory and Security Pacific Bank, the group, known as the 414s (a term referring to their local area code) were identified and caught by the FBI in 1983. (Rinaldi, 2004) The case garnered national interest and widespread media coverage.
Hackers began to form collectives and coordinate cyber attacks on each other. As well as attacks on corporations and