Tech Time Warp: Crime by Computer - June 1976

Posted by Lauren Beliveau on Jun 24, 2016 12:00:00 PM

techtime_cyber.jpgThis Tech Time Warp will bring you back to June 1976, shortly before Apple sold its first personal computer, sparking a trend that would change the world. But in June 1976, no one had a personal computer, and many computers were ‘time-shared.’ Even the Queen of England had to travel to use a computer! Did you know that on March 26, 1976, Queen Elizabeth II sent out the first royal email when visiting the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE)?

Crime by Computer

In June 1976, Gerald Jonas wrote an article for The New York Times titled “Crime by Computer, which highlighted a study by Donn Parker. According to Jonas, the study detailed numerous “computer abuses that range from filching a competitor’s trade secrets out of a time-sharing computer system to the multi-billion dollar Equity Funding fraud in which computers were used to create 64,000 bogus insurance policies.” MSP's Complete Guide to Cyber Security

Jonas explained that computer users were very vulnerable because even though there were only 150,000 computers in use in 1976, only a few criminals are needed to cause chaos. “Any user of a timesharing system can, if he is clever enough sit down at a computer terminal and insert into the system’s primary storage bank a secret program that can turn the entire computer network into his personal slave,” Jonas wrote.

Parker’s study suggests that the first step toward protection is that all users need to “stop attributing recurrent mistakes on bank statements, credit notices and so on to ‘computer errors’….it is not the computer, but the people behind the computer.”

What’s changed in four decades

Forty years later, hackers are still “making computer networks into their personal slave,” as Jonas put it. You can’t go a whole day without hearing about another cybersecurity threat or data breach. It’s gotten so bad that recently the Department of Defense launched their first pilot program called ‘Hack the Pentagon’ in order to patch security flaws. Before it concluded on June 17, the program identified 138 flaws in the Pentagon’s system. Bug bounties don’t come cheap, though. The payout for this program was $150,000.

But, that is considerably less expensive than hiring a security firm, which would have cost the Department of Defense more than a million dollars, or suffering a security breach. According to a study done by IBM, the average data breach costs a company $4 million. So, protecting your SMB customers’ data is crucial.

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Topics: Tech Time Warp

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