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History of Hacking

Apr 19 2011

Hacking is a general term that refers to the reconfiguration or reprogramming of a computer system in order to allow an outsider who wouldn’t otherwise have access to that system to gain entrance. It is an art and a dark science that has been around ever since the dawn of computers themselves. Hacking is often used by the mainstream media to refer to all types of electronics manipulation including “phreaking” and “cracking.” It is a catch-all term that has fallen securely into place as a handle for any outside manipulation of electronic devices, even though in the real world of hacking it refers to a specific type of manipulation.

“Hacker” is a word invented in the 1940s by mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., played by Russell Crowe in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Meaning it as a derogatory term, Nash used it to refer to anyone looking for a quick way around a problem.

In 1972, it was discovered that a cereal box whistle emitted a frequency that would authorize long distance calls when played into a phone. This is considered one of the first technology hacks.

In 1981, a hacker named Ian Murphy was the first to be convicted of a felony when he broke into AT&T systems and switched their discount rates to daytime hours.

A hacker named Kevin Mitnick made it to the US Most Wanted list after hacking into a number of phone and computer companies. Some believed he could cause the launching of a nuclear device simply by whistling into any public phone.

Allegedly searching for little green men, Gary McKinnon broke into US Navy, Air Force, Army, Defense Department, and NASA web sites in what some consider the greatest military hack ever.

The US leads the world with thirteen percent of the planet’s spam sent from hacked computers within its borders. Cheap online hacking universities in China lead the world in revenue generated with an annual $40 million profit.

Across the globe, intellectual property amounting to around $1 trillion has been stolen by hackers. This is in addition to an annual $4 billion in damages in the US caused by hackers and $1 billion in China. According to a Symantec survey performed in 2009, slightly less than half the businesses surveyed had been hacked and lost valuable information. It is said that a third of companies have to face daily hack attacks, 17 percent of which manage to gain entry. Hackers attempt to break into power plants thousands of times per year. Successful attempts extort millions of dollars annually.

Around 250 professional hackers are hired every year by the Defense Department to protect the US from malicious hackers. Job applicants are given a thorough career assessment of their past life and must pass a challenging aptitude test. The Pentagon invested $6 billion into computer safety measures in 2009 alone. This figure is expected to at least double in the next five years.

Some of the most often hacked sites include Facebook and other social networks.