Sunday, November 29, 2009

History of Hacking

Is Hacking Always Bad?

Although the history of hacking is relatively unknown to most of the public, it's quite interesting to read about it. It doesn't matter if you aren't a computer expert or a system administrator of a big corporation.

Computers are as much part of our history as airplanes and cars, and it should be common knowledge to know how they came to be. It's the only way you can understand the effects of computer hacking in our life.

History of Hacking

Hacking is not limited to computers. The real meaning of hacking is to expand the capabilities of any electronic device; to use them beyond the original intentions of the manufacturer. As a matter of fact, the first hackers appeared in the 1960's at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and their first victims were electric trains. They wanted them to perform faster and more efficiently. So, is hacking always bad? Not really. It only depends on how to use it. But it wasn't until a group of these hackers decided to exert their knowledge in the computer mainframes of the MIT.

During the 1970's, a different kind of hacker appeared: the phreaks or phone hackers. They learned ways to hack the telephonic system and make phone calls for free. Within these group of people, a phreaker became famous because a simple discovery. John Draper, also known as Captain Crunch, found that he could make long distance calls with a whistle. He built a blue box that could do this and the Esquire magazine published an article on how to build them. Fascinated by this discovery, two kids, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, decided to sell these blue boxes, starting a business friendship which resulted in the founding of Apple.

By the 1980's, phreaks started to migrate to computers, and the first Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) appeared. BBS are like the yahoo groups of today, were people posted messages of any kind of topics. The BBS used by hackers specialized in tips on how to break into computers, how to use stolen credit card numbers and share stolen computer passwords.

It wasn't until 1986 that the US government realized the danger that hackers represented to the national security. As a way to counteract this menace, the Congress passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, making computer breaking a crime across the nation.

During the 1990's, when the use of the internet widespread around the world, hackers multiplied, but it wasn't until the end of the decade that system's security became mainstream among the public.

Today, we are accustomed to hackers, crackers, viruses, Trojans, worms and all of the techniques we need to follow to combat them.

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    Hacking is a common "hobby" (as some refer it to), that is known by most of us as a bad thing to do, but can hacking really help us in some areas? Hackers and crackers are often referred to across the world as the big threats for online business and the online society. They are also often painted with the same broad brush as several other groups, like virus writers, as waging a cyber war on the internet. Is this threat real or do we need a more clearer idea about hacking? There are many terms about hacking (and hackers) that are either expressed differently or explained differently to each other and can affect the way we think about both.

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