Information Security History

This exhibit gives a history of the evolution of users, key technologies, threats, concerns, and security techniques in information security since 1960. Click on the links in the pre-web computing (1960s-'90s), open web (1990s-2000s), and mobile and cloud (2000s-future) section. What were the threats and concerns of each time period? How did security technology or techniques develop in response to those threats?

Pre-Web Computing (1960s-'90s)

Threats and Concerns Before the Web

Before the open web, the evolving Internet was a relatively friendly and benign environment for its participants. Its end-to-end design principle, described in an influential 1981 conference paper by Saltzer, Reed, and Clark, encouraged its early users to build emerging services in ways that avoided specific dependencies on how and where their data was transmitted. Nonetheless, there was still concern about threats, whether from pranks or wiretappers.

What were the threats and concerns?


Even in the early days of networking, data transmitted between mutually friendly sites needed to traverse complex and unpredictable sets of routers and communications lines. While there was some interest in end-to-end encryption of potentially sensitive data, implementation was limited.

Unauthorized Access to Services and Data

Even in the early Internet's collaborative environment, it was important to identify and distinguish users, so that data and costly processing resources could be protected and conserved. While many data objects were published for general access via anonymous File Transfer Protocol (FTP), access to others required registration with individual usernames and passwords.

PC viruses

Before widespread use of networks, viruses were the primary security concern for most PC users. Virus infections spread from the early days of PCs, initially accompanying programs shared on floppy disks and subsequently carried via communications facilities.

Morris Worm

The Morris Worm (1988) was the first publicized example of a worm spreading via the Internet, and led to the first conviction under the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It exploited vulnerabilities present in thousands of connected Unix systems, consuming their processing resources.