History of Cybercrimes – Part I

This article talks about history of cybercrimes starting from 1834.

I am a member of a group(“speak history”) of history enthusiasts, who meet every fortnight at silverhouse bookshop in Mysore and discuss on history of various objects(jelebi, Mysore water bodies etc.) or people(AHOM tribal etc.) or science. Last weekend, I presented on History of Cybercrimes and was received very well by the smart audience and I received very rave reviews and while preparing for this presentation I learnt a lot and was amazed at the events and stories related to cybercrimes over time. Hence I thought, why not present the same to my cybermithra audience and I very sure you will also be astonished and awed by the history of various cybercrimes. For the next few weeks, I will be talking about the history of cybercrimes worldwide and India in my cybermithra article.
Cybercrime has become alarmingly prevalent in our current world, where most of the transactions nowadays are conducted online using digital platforms. Cybercrime poses a serious threat to individuals, businesses, and government entities and can result in significant financial loss, privacy issues, damaged reputation, and compromised data. Based on current cybercrime trends, the cost of such attacks could reach upwards of $20 trillion worldwide by 2026 as per a research company Statista, and it was $8 trillion in 2023, making it the third biggest country in terms of GDP if we consider the cost as a country’s GDP.
Most people may think cybercrimes are a recent phenomenon but you won’t believe the first instance of a cybercrime is dated as far as 1834, when two thieves infiltrated the French telegraph system, gained access to financial markets, and stole data transmitted through telegraph between companies and used it for personal gains. Though the word ‘Cyber’ entered the English language in ‘Cybernetics’, which is the ‘Study of Systems of Control and Communication’ and word “Cybercrime” was first coined in 1982 by William Gibson but it gained popularity in 1984 through his popular novel ‘Neuromancer’.
Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876, two years later few teenage boys broke into Bell’s telephone company and misdirected calls for personal gains and thereby ushering phone phreaking telephone scams(use someone else’s telephone and make free calls or avoid long-distance tolls) . Cybercrimes was also used for good use, like when Rene Carmille, a French punch card computer expert, used his expertise to reprogram Nazi punch card machines after hacking into the Nazi data registry and blocked the Nazis’ attempts to register and track Jewish people and thereby ushering the era of ethical hacking. First major cyber attack which made lot of news across the world was the cyber hacking done by Allen Scherr, on the MIT computer networks, stealing passwords of teachers from their punch card database and then using it steal question papers and modify marks allocated.
Next week, I will comback with more stories and facts which defined the history of cybercrimes.

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