Before Hollywood took the hacking phenomena under its wing, unless you were a clued-in techy, the world of hacking would be unfamiliar territory. In recent years, movies like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Matrix and The Italian Job have managed to glamourize the high-tech thrill of breaking into servers, cracking door codes and hijacking security networks.
But before television brought the hacker technology into our general knowing, hacking was still an occurring reality for some. So what is the history of hacking and where did today's sophisticated hacking begin?
Late 1950s – The MIT Start Off with a Bang
Hacking wasn’t always about computers. In fact, the first ‘hackers’ were roof and tunnel hackers, which the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was instrumental in introducing. These were people who entered roof and utility tunnel spaces without authorization, in other words getting into a place they shouldn’t be in – which is where computer hacking got its name when people started using technology to get into data systems they shouldn’t have access to!
Roof and tunnel hacking was initially intended as practical jokes and saw the hanging of banners from tall places and the popular placing of a model car on the top of a university building. Unsecured entry points would be used to gain access and cause mischief as per the desire of the hacker.
Early 1970s – The Era of Phone Phreaking
The telephone network was the first technological victim of hacking know as Phone Phreaking. It was ingeniously discovered that whistling down a phone in a specific tone could in fact force a switchboard to allow calls. The exploitation of telecommunications systems using audio frequencies was further enhanced by the use of tone-generating devices to permit even free long-distance calls.
‘Phone Phreaks’ were committed to gaining unauthorized access to telephone systems, which quickly saw the evasion become a criminal offence.
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Mid 1970s – A New Level of Virus Sophistication is Met
In 1975, several Motorola staff unearthed a way to crack the security system on the Xerox machine using a simple programming strategy. They reported the problems as a matter of urgency to Xerox but when no action was taken to resolve the loophole, Motorola staff mischievously installed programs named Robin Hood and Friar Tuck.
These programs were designed to cause mischief in the system such as printing insulting messages to each other or making huge old disk drives ‘walk’ across the floor, and the programs prevented the system operator from aborting them by protecting each other and persistently reappearing after rebooting of the system.
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2007 – The Return of Urban Exploration
The 1950s exploration of physical spaces returned with Parkour and free-running as a more creative mode of accessing abandoned and forbidden places. Parkour involves running, jumping, swinging and vaulting over obstacles in the hope of trespassing – all in the name of creativity and freedom, and all, technically, a form of ‘hacking’.
The Present Day – 'Information wants to be free'
Technology activists and the availability of free online schools has encouraged the illicit access of information. Online schools such as Udacity, Codecademy and Khan Academy have provided people with the tools required for coding and have led to an increase in the number of code-literate individuals. With a booming number of techies, breach of online security systems has also proportionally risen.
It seems that with the advancements in technology and the evolving of hacking with time, we can anticipate a nightmare future of computer hacking. Prevailing hackers are likely to turn their attention to governmental projects and entering mainstream security systems by clever impersonation. Computer coding has become child's play for many and it is anticipated for budding hackers to seek opportunities t