Most people define hacking as the process of gaining unauthorized access to a computer or network. Once this access is established, the perpetrator (i.e. the hacker) uses the attacked system to steal information or hack other computers. Hacking has come a long way from humble beginnings when people were unfamiliar with the process and did take it seriously. They did not want to cause serious damage when hijacking computer systems like hackers nowadays, but we’re more curious about the intricate details of a computing system or were simply retaliating against jokes promoted by their rivals.
An example of this type of hacking was in 1878 when two teenage boys working at a telephone switchboard center at Bell Telephone (created by Graham Bell), interrupted telephone lines, disconnected services, and misdirected and eavesdropped on calls. Their attempt was geared more toward learning about the intricate phone systems through curiosity rather than trying to steal personal information at the time for financial or political gain. Computer technology was minimal at the time, so hacking telephones was the ‘in’ thing to do.
It seemed so easy and playful at times, prompting everyone with basic computer knowledge to do it. And the “phreakers” were able to make free phone calls by using simple methods such as making external sounds to recreate the genuine tone sounds of a telephone.
An example of a simple method of phone phreaking is sneaking blue, black, and red boxes inside a telephone port. These boxes would emulate the sound of coins inserting into a box to manipulate the system on payphones, or create a dial tone to make free long-distance phone calls. But there were a variety of ways to bypass the system. Joe Engressia, a blind kid in the 70s, used a whistle and sung a perfectly tuned pitched to create a perfect tone and disrupt calls. There was a documentary called Joybubbles that covered his life and times. In 1971, a Vietnam Vet named John Draper was allowed to hack the airwaves and make free long-distance phone calls with just a box of cereal and a whistle. Now, phreaking is a form of surveillance used by different governments to spy on individuals at the high levels and is caught being performed by regular people who have severe legal punishments.
Even in the early 1900s, the telephone was not the only system being manipulated by hackers or “phreakers.” They were also using sending mixed signals through the use of morse codes to spam messages through radio communication transmissions again, in a way to play practical jokes. Guglielmo Marconi was behind many of the Morse code manipulations in the early days and would routinely break into shows and create his own set of interesting transmissions that had people confused.
When did hacking start to get a bad reputation?
Hacking started to really get a bad reputation in 1983 when the movie War Games was released. It was about a young suburban teenage hacker, played by Matthew Broderick, who hacks into a military Pentagon supercomputer and uses it to launch missiles. This was at a time when the Reagan administration was on edge about NORAD missile attacks from Russia, so imaginations were going wild. The potential destruction of government computer systems and technology was on the mind of people and hacking was no longer seen as fun and games. Even now, that movie has a bit of truth. Moreover, around this time, notorious hackers such as Kevin Mitnick and Kevin Poulsen started using their computer engineering skills for personal gain from ill-gotten means.
A large hacking attempt was performed by Milwaukee 414s infiltrating more than 60 high profile computer systems including some of the major institutions such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory the same year. These types of attacks prompted Congress to pass the Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act as things got worse.
By 1987 teenager Herbert Zinn hacked into AT&T’s computer network and almost getting to the central telephone system that would have caused a worldwide blackout across the board. The 1995 movie “Hackers” portrayed the potential of taking over computer systems and manipulating worldwide governments to launching real-world danger attacks against humanity as a whole could do.
Where exactly did the term “hacking” come from?
The term “hacking” came into existence around 1970 when the US government hired a group of computer experts to hack hardware and software systems when they realized the hacking stuff had serious consequences. However, the idea of hacking originated between 1955-1960s by computer programmers and system designers at MIT.
Back then, MIT had the best computers on the market. They were big, hunk metal machine mainframes kept in temperature glassed cases. It was extremely expensive to operate one, costing about a few thousand dollars, and only the best and brightest students could operate them. Students would reserve computer spots and take turns using them, so it was a really big deal. These students started to create “hacks”/shortcuts of their own to bypass certain systems just to make their works and projects better. However, as stated earlier, with every system, there is always a shortcut of some kind waiting to be exploited.
In the 80s, there were millions of computer units found in almost every household thanks to IBM creating personal computers so naturally, this would give birth to hackers testing out how the systems work and finding holes and bugs in it. The bad hackers were labeled “black hat” hackers, and the good hackers were labeled “white hat” hackers.
Naturally, this would give birth to plenty of hackers testing out the water, but things really took a turn when the movie in Milwaukee group of hackers broke into institutions systems.
Everyone in the hacker community knows about the “Great Hacker War” between LOD and MOD when they were blocking phone lines and breaking into each other computers. The FEDS had to step in and stop them. Nowadays, hackers are some of the most notorious people in online communities engaging in cyber warfare at every turn.
The FBI is on the lookout for black hat hackers and constantly jail them for illegal computer activities, as their skills are increasingly becoming powerful and could putting the entire free world at risk. Hacking can even influence politics and sway the direction of elections. And, for the most part, politicians control the lives of every living being on this planet.
For instance, in the USA 2017, there was a big story about John Podesta, a chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, who had his email hacked which is said to have cost her the election. In the email, he talked with other members of the DNC (Democratic National Committee) about some classified information that proved to be very comprising and said to have cost her the election. Sources state that the hackers who gained access to his account, actually simply guessed his password, which was “password” at the time, so it was easy to break into his system.
This is why it is very important to perform tests to ensure your password is unique by adding special characters, uppercase, and lowercase letters. Some systems would not even allow you to create a password without those prerequisites because it would be too easy to guess a password if the person knows a little bit of your personal life or even knows your email. A very weak combination. The Podesta DNC email hack was a pretty easy hack. Most of the information found in those emails hinted to corruption which is had an effect on the 2016 elections in the USA between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
News pundits took things one step further by indicating that Russian hackers leaked classified information about Hillary and Podesta to WIKILEAKS, an independent news website known for leaking hidden information about high government sources, which helped Electors decide their votes. This is system exploitation at its finest. Some have even said that the U.S. meddled in elections from Guatemala to Iran.
Understand that most of the digital systems we use daily run on a computer. Even when calling a retail company to place an order, they input your information into a computer that is most likely hackable, unless the penetration tests were performed. Moreover, smart homes that include smart meters and smart appliances are hackable as well. Many tech experts fear that systems that rely too much on computer systems are hackable such as 787 jets. Everyone has their eyes on hacking and rightfully so.
However, there are some companies that have to smarten up and applied hacker-proof systems by investing software that helps fix the infrastructure of a system to prevent these attacks. Keep in mind that no computer is “hacker-proof” because someone developed those systems, so that person who created them knows how to bypass anything in the system. Normally, black-hat hackers will perform DDOS attacks “Denial of Service” attacks, which are data packets sent to servers to slow them down or shut them down making the companies lose a lot of customers because people cannot access their site. Normally, when you hear about independent hacker groups hacking government websites or retail websites, normally they are sending DDOS attacks to shut down those systems.
Hollywood has almost made the hacker seem “sexy” in a sense, portrayed as heroes in movies like the “Matrix,” where the character Trinity hacked into the IRS database and other important government systems. Because of these portrayals, there are average people coming out in droves claiming to be a “real” hacker based on something they have seen on television or the internet. They will do it just to scare other folks into submission and manipulate them to do things.
For instance, some of these guys will get on Skype and make false claims about women they are a hacker and gain access to comprising info about a woman that could be very damaging to her reputation in personal and professional life. These hackers will essentially blackmail these women by asking them to send nude photos for their own pleasure. These types of hackers will gain access to celebrity phones or personal accounts and come across nude photos of the celebrity and leak them to the public – although sometimes it is the celebrity that will leak the photos themselves and blame it on a hacker as a publicity stunt. However, once a hacker has your personal information they can do some considerable damage.
Another form of unethical hacking is when these people will gather information about a specific person in a chat room or online gaming system and make emergency calls to the local police in that person’s area and pretend there is a hostage situation happening at the person’s home causing a swat team to break in. There have been numerous people hurt behind this and have serious consequences if caught. There are stiff penalties for “swatting” carrying up to 10 years’ jail time.
A more passive-aggressive form of unethical hacking is when in an online session of a video game system players may set fire to all the characters in a session continuously killing them for fun or give exorbitant amounts of money to random players in the game.
Some real hackers want to explore different internet systems for curiosity, but others want to have fun, but most ethical hackers follow a strict set of rules, such as not be ignored afraid, or asking questions, or give out yours or anyone else name.
Hackers are the ‘gangsters’ of the online world, taking information at will and using it for personal purposes. Almost most people believe that all hackers are the same because the word normally has a negative stigma associated with it. No one or company is safe from them from ValuJet to NASA have been hacked. Systems, in general, are easy to break into because of the unlimited, boundless nature of the internet. Although, the concept of technology is always increasing and improving, the digital system is put in place to protect us are increasing and improving as well. Even virus protection programs such as Norton and MacAfee have hacker-proof programs from stealing information.
Moreover, the more technologically advanced a system, the more of a playing field hacker has to indulge in their sinful fantasies. There is a vast pool of systems out there. Hacking has become powerful because of the ignorance on the part of companies and does not take it seriously or takes it too seriously. Think about the Y2K scare when the government thought that hackers were going to show for viruses and hacker attacks and people were preparing for it heavily. However, nothing happened. In some cases, it is a personal and financial gain or even exploitive in away. Learn more about Types Of Hackers.