The history of Cybersecurity



Mohammad Baker Ahmed Almousawi



7 Sep, 2020


The past, present and future of Cybersecurity

Origin of cybercrime

Cybersecurity is a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse. But how did this vicious game of hack and track begin?

The origin of cybercrime can be traced to before the invention of the internet. Before the internet, corporations and governments used computers for data storage and transfer in their local networks. Therefore, the first cybercrimes involved simple hacks that involved data theft. The exact first occurrence of cybercrime is impossible to find out; however, the first significant attack is known. We can use that as a point of reference in our journey to find out how cybercrimes evolved and how cybersecurity evolved with it.

The relationship between the internet and cybersecurity

The evolution of cybersecurity directly coincides with the growth of the internet. The more complicated cybersecurity becomes the more criminals will want to steal our data for themselves. The harder we make it for criminals to recover and benefit from our data, the more they would want it for their selfish gains or to arrogantly feel superior.

The creation of digital tools pushed humanity to the 21st century; however, so did cybercrime. To fully appreciate this, we will briefly discover the origin of the internet and its purpose.

Before the internet, there were private computer networks run by organisations that had the resources to run one; this included governments militaries and private corporations.

To access these private networks, one would have to be there physically and logged on a device there, or gain access using a dial-up modem. This meant to access the network remotely you would have to dial each network directly from a phone and be granted access usually by a human moderator. This process would have to be repeated each time you would want to access a new network. Today you simply enter a website and gain access, but this was before the world wide web was introduced, the effects of world wide web will be discovered later.

The internet was introduced as a means for computers to connect, to allow communication and exchange of information. To do that you would have to connect to it, which sends a wave of signals that tips off your presence to the public to use for whatever they wish, which usually only brings harm.

The IP (Internet protocol) solved problems faced by the early networks. Thanks to IP, computers can now find each other on the network by each having assigned IP’s. However, to find other’s machines, you would both have to be visible to each other, this creates privacy issues. IP addresses are visible; this also means that they are hackable and traceable.

The timelines of cybersecurity and cybercrime

Main events

Cybercrime can be summarised into four main parts.

The first was when emails were introduced during the late 80s. This presented a new method of scams and malware. This platform introduced a new way of spreading malware. This can include sending fraudulent emails in the purpose of data theft.

The second significant event in the timeline was when the world wide web was introduced. There was a vast choice of websites to choose from which created a new base of operation for cybercrime. Viruses were spread each time an untrustworthy website was visited. They had various effects that included, a multitude of pop up ads to spread on your screen; some could cause your computer to have issues running accordingly, or even redirect you to unpleasant sites.

The introduction of social media created a big wave for cybercrime. People started putting personal information on profile databases; this created a surge in data theft. Criminals were able to use this hand gifted information to their advantage. They were able to open credit cards or commit numerous financial fraud crimes at ease.

The most contemporary wave is a half-trillion global criminal enterprise. Criminals now operate in organised groups to attack infinite targets on the web. These establishments operate in a hierarchy with usual work times like any other 9-5 job.


1949– Jon Von Neumann publishes “The Theory of Self Reproducing Automata”. This theory gets abused by cybercriminals to develop self-replicating software, i.e. viruses

1971- The Creeper virus makes its first appearance. It infected the network of Digital Equipment Corporations PDP mainframes. The virus was mostly harmless as the only thing it did was display the message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!”

1973- 2 million US dollars were embezzled from a local New York bank by a teller.

1981- Ian murphy, also known as Captain Zap, hacked into the AT&T network and caused the network to charge off-peak hours at peak-times by changing the internal clock. He then became the first person to be prosecuted for cybercrime. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years of probation and 1000 hours of community service. In comparison to today’s charges, this is relatively a slap on the wrist.

1982- The first virus since the creeper virus appears. It was called the El cloner, and a 15-year-old kid wrote it as a joke. Initially, it was spread by floppy disc attacking Apple II operating systems. Primarily, the purpose of the virus was to simply replicate. Subsequently was increasing popularity and more and more people being interested

1986- Like-minded computer enthusiasts start to form computer clubs. Some of these clubs are criminally associated. They begin to work on the previously mentioned viruses and other forms of cybercrime. During this year, the virus “Brain” was released. It was the first virus that targets MS-DOS, an operating system created by Microsoft.  

1988- ARPANET is attacked buy a self-replicating warm the attacks 600,000 computers. The world was designed by a Robert T. Morris jr., a graduate student at Cornell. He was charged with three years of probation and given a fine of $10,000.

1989- Different cybercrimes were occurring during this year. Firstly the first large scale

1990- Two notorious large-scale phone phreaks, “The Legion Of Doom” and “Masters Of Deception”, are at war. These two gangs distort each other’s connection and hack into each other’s computers. Due to the high profile of this, the FBI get involved and start to take down BBS’s promoting fraud.

1994- Av Test revealed that they have been collecting samples for all known malware for years and that there are 26,613 different samples in their system.

1995- macro-viruses are released to the world and they to this day pose a threat. These viruses use an application as a vessel to deliver their malware. They are not easily detectable; therefore, it is advised against opening unknown emails. They are integrated within computer languages in applications.

1996- due to the increasing popularity of email phishing is now a problem. Any user with an email can be a recipient of relevant content that can be used for data theft or as a vessel for malware. Also, the first Linux virus STAOG appears.

1996- John Deutsch, the CIA Director, informed Congress that organised crime rings were hacking the US government and corporate networks. The U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that they had had at least 390,000 successful attacks on their files.

1997- according to the FBI, most US companies have been hacked without knowing about it. They estimated that 85% of them were attacked. Moreover, The Chaos Computer Club hack Quicken software to make bank transfers without their knowledge.

1999- The release of the Melissa virus. This was a macro-virus that targeted email accounts. The virus would gain access to these emails, and its objective was to send out mass-mailings. The writer was one of the first people to be convicted for writing malware. He was sentenced for five years because he was accused of causing about 80 million dollars in damages.

2000– cybercrime skyrockets. It has become clear that data in the right place is worth billions. Due to this, cybercriminals are more sophisticated and are better at being anonymous. The most notable attacks are DDoS attacks—this a new type of attack that targeted the likes of AOL, Yahoo! and eBay. Also, the ILOVEYOU virus spread across the internet. At this point, if you have not been susceptible to malware, you are not an internet user.

2005- unique malware has by 1100% in ten years. The number of it was 333,425 according to UV test.

Cybersecurity and internet advancements

1960- Paul Baran finds a solution that would allow networks to work if the network was partially damaged. He suggested that instead of having direct connections, multiple routes could be set up that lead to the same destination.

1968– Donald Davies comes up with the packet switching theory. This theory grants the ability for multiple users to use the same line. This efficient method works by splitting data to ease transmission#

1969- ARPANET forms the first packet switching network with aid from the US government

1971- The first antivirus made its appearance. The “Reaper” was a virus targeting the creeper virus to delete it from the system. This was the beginning of the cat-and-mouse game.

1973- Robert Metcalfe, an engineer working in ARPANET, claimed that the network is too easy to access. However, during this time, there was a negligible effort taken to improve cybersecurity. Crime at the time was focused on phone networks.

1978- Bulletin board system was introduced and became the primary method of communication as it opened up a world of features that included a free and rapid exchange of information.

1978- First attempts at introducing encryption in TCP/IP were being made. These attempts were unsuccessful; however, all was not lost as it was the start of a vital feature of cybersecurity.

1982- when the elk loner virus appeared the first antiviruses were created these were simple fixes that could easily be purchased. Due to this, companies were established where their primary purpose was to offer antivirus services. The increasing number of cyberattacks created a market for cybersecurity companies

1983- ARPANET made TCP/IP protocol Their communication platform. This was the start of the rise of the world wide web. During this time, the term virus was first published by a Fred Cohen and later defined as to “a code that recursively copies a possibly evolved version of itself” by Péter Ször.

1986- In the USA, cybercrime is now made illegal thanks to the computer fraud and abuse act. Now cybercrimes have a defined penalty.

1987- This is the most crucial year for cybersecurity for six reasons.

  1. Bernd fix performs of a first-ever documented case of virus removal.
  2. The first-ever antivirus is released for the Atari platform by Andreas Lűning and Kai Figge.
  3. The ultimate virus killer becomes the most common antivirus.
  4. The first antivirus company is formed in the US by John McAfee; this company is later bought by Intel and taken Under their brand
  5. the NOD antivirus is developing Czechoslovakia.
  6. Flushpot and Anti4us are released; these antiviruses are the first to be heuristic.

1990- The Computer Misuse Act is passed in the UK, which made cybercrime illegal in the UK.

1991- three vital events happened this year. Firstly, Norton Antivirus is released by Symantec. Secondly, the European Institute for Antivirus Research is established. Finally, the first self-claimed antivirus is published on the internet by F-secure.   

1993- The use of the internet becomes more popular due to the publication of the world wide web. Cybercriminals now have a new platform; this allows them to have their own websites to do with it what they wish. Mosaic web browsers and web portals like AOL allowed any user to surf the internet with ease; however, this also made them easy targets. These years were the birth of modern cybersecurity.

1996- the internet gets more sophisticated, now you can get add-on’s that enhance the ability of the web and improve user experience. However, this yet another platform for cybercriminals to use as these add-ons can have bugs and further flaws. This further lowers internet security.

Present-day cybersecurity

The Recurring Problem- tech firms tend to be reactive to acts instead of proactive

As can be seen above in the timeline Cybersecurity is a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse. Attackers are evolving with the internet; they are developing new skills and deploying new tactics and techniques. At the same time, defenders respond by playing catch up.

To make this even more transparent according to a survey carried out by The Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report. Fifty-seven percent of surveyed businesses were attacked, out of those fifty-seven, fourty-two percent experienced more than one attack in the same period and ten percent of them had more than five attacks.

Clearly, there is a recurring, evolving threat to all businesses big or small.

Why are businesses slow to respond?


Firstly, businesses tend to have an optimistic attitude toward cybersecurity. According to the cyber readiness survey, 26 percent of firms had no plans on taking cybersecurity insurance. They are deceived into believing they are not relevant enough to be a target. It sounds reasonable to be misconceived into thinking they do not face the same burdens as big corporations. However, the fact that attacks on small businesses are not reported does not mean they do not exist. An attack on any business can potentially have the same relative effect.

Similarly, firms tend to be disengaged from internet security. There is an evident lack of executive interest in internet security, according to the previously mentioned report, about 62 percent of firms have made cybersecurity a priority. With that being said, some firms revealed they had not changed anything after being attacked.       

What advancements are happening to improve cybersecurity

Improving cybersecurity is a necessity. The report reveals there are three main steps taken to improve cybersecurity. Firstly, over half the cybersecurity budget is being increased.

With that being said, this means that there will be more staff as the report claims half the businesses will increase their team.

Staff on its own is not enough; more money will be spent on training staff according to the report.

From a technological point of view. Attackers are arming themselves and developing their methods of attack. They are not alone in this arms race as there have been substantial technological advancements that have proved to be vital in cybersecurity.

The first is blockchain. Blockchain was made for bitcoin to be used for exchanging sensitive information and identity authentication. Its decentralised algorithm makes immune to attack, essentially making it revolutionary technology in this world. The NHS is experimenting with blockchain to protect the sensitive patient information when it shares information between its facilities.

With the increasing dependency of cloud technology from a personal and business capacity, the security of cloud data is exceptionally vital. Having a significant amount of data on the cloud is very convenient; however, this could expose users to security flaws. Fortunately, cloud security has improved significantly over the years, ensuring user safety.

IoT security is an essential leap in network security. Simple Wi-Fi devices were designed with negligible safety. This made them a gateway to hackers to get into other devices. Now IoT software comes with cybersecurity that can be shared with the rest of the house devices.

The most significant advancement is AI and Machine Learning. Hardware and software can now adapt to new threats without the need for human input. Therefore, the software can foresee risks and adjust to them accordingly.

Finally, application security. Apps were only as secure as the device they were hosted on; this made them preys to hackers. Now, software security is a vital part of the app to the extent that some apps can be more secure than the phone itself.

What the market will be in the future

Predictions of further cybercrime

According to cybersecurity ventures, the following predictions are made for the future of cybercrime.

In terms of damages, it is predicted that cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021. Relatively speaking, this is more damages than natural disasters and the trade of all illegal drugs combined. They also predicted that 70% of all cryptocurrency transactions would be done for unlawful activity, whereas today it is 20%.

In terms of ransomware, it is predicted that the damage cost of ransomware will be 57 times more than it was in 2015, therefore, making it the most notorious type of cybercrime. The damage cost is predicted to reach $20 billion in 2021. This is an increase of $8.5 billion from 2019.

The Future Growth of Cybersecurity

With the growth of cybercrime and the above predictions, cybersecurity has become the fastest growing technology sector with cybercrime being at its all-time high. The cybersecurity unemployment rate is predicted to remain at 0% for the foreseeable future. The investments in cybersecurity are proliferating, and they are set to be at $1 trillion cumulatively; however, tech firms do not uncover all the breaches they have in order to maintain their reputation, therefore, this figure could be higher as they could have spent more in order to fix these breaches.

As explained above, cybercrime is set to increase; therefore, firms are increasing their investments in order to be more anticipating to threats.

Another reason the cybersecurity industry is growing is compliance regulations. The most common being GDPR. This forces businesses to attain cybersecurity services to implement the compliance requirements or face the fines and charges associated with not complying with them.

Spike in cybersecurity jobs

As you can tell by now, there is a high demand in the cybersecurity market. It is predicted that there will be 3.5 million unfilled positions in the industry by 2021. Whereas in 2014 this was at a million. The five highest paid jobs in the industry pay over $200,000 annually. Below are the roles alongside their pay.

Freelance Bug Bounty Hunters – this a self-employed job with no set income however people can earn more half a million dollars a year doing this.

Chief Information Security Officer – according to your corporation, you can earn from $200,00 to over $420,00 annually.

Deputy CISO – This position can have a payment of $250,000 in fortune 500 companies. Again, this can vary.

Lead Software Security Engineer – for coders at the top of their field, they earn over $250,000.

Cybersecurity Sales Engineer – switching from coding to giving demos can be a spike in pay as people in this field can earn $200,000 a year.

As previously mentioned, cybersecurity has a 0% unemployment rate, and it is predicted to stay that way.

There must be an easy way for businesses to navigate around the market

Well, there is. As you know by now, the market is rapidly growing and becoming too complicated and overcrowded for users to sort quickly through the noise to find the right products and require services.

I would like to introduce you to Jenny. Jenny is a Security Web Intelligence platform that brings company users and cybersecurity vendors together. With her help, users can access thousands of vendors and view their products and services clearly. She is an unbiased and technology agnostic voice to the cybersecurity market. She has been built to operate at a global level and continuously discovering security vendors every day.


About author:


Mohammad Baker Ahmed Almousawi


Related Blogs

Global Tech Loop Issue

Tinesh Chhaya . 10 Nov, 2020

What is Internet of Things?

Mohammad Baker Ahmed Almousawi . 2 Nov, 2020

Cyber Security Awareness Month

Tinesh Chhaya . 26 Oct, 2020