Week 4: 1962–1998
Hacking, Cybersecurity, and Encryption: The Other Side of the Internet, from ARPANET to WWW
As quickly as computers were networked, users began to play around with them outside of the narrow constrictions of official use. The first computer virus was in fact designed as a sort of game to be run on a PDP-10 mainframe computer connected to ARPANET, a continuation of the inventiveness that had resulted in one of the first video games, Spacewar!, for the earlier PDP-1 mainframe. Creeper, the first self-replicating computer worm, inspired in turn the first cyber defense program, Reaper, which sought to track down and delete the infectious code. By the late 1980s, such offensives and counteroffensives had escalated to form whole communities of hackers and cybersecurity teams. This week we’ll take a look at the other side of the internet, the stories of malware and computer viruses, the rise of cybersecurity and antivirus software, and the fight for privacy and strong encryption for network users, from ARPANET to the early days of the World Wide Web.
In connection with our discussion of overlooked networks from last week, check out cybersecurity expert Fredrick “Flee” Lee, as he recalls growing up in rural Mississippi and finding inspiration for his later career in a 2600 story about the Black hacker known by the alias “Corrupt” or “John Threat.” As with radio before it, computers and the internet were hobbies for young amateurs that quickly became a way of life.
Readings for Class
• Driscoll, The Modem World, 90–131.
• Ewen McCaskill and Gabriel Dance, “NSA Files: Decoded,” Guardian, November 1, 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/nov/01/snowden-nsa-files-surveillance-revelations-decoded. An example of multimedia journalism for use in thinking about the final project.
• Steven Levy. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, 25th Anniversary Edition. O’Reilly, 2010.
• Bruce Sterling. The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier. Bantam, 1992. (link to the free plain-text version at MIT.edu)
• Michele Slatalla and Joshua Quittner. Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace. HarperCollins, 1995.
• Nicole Perlroth. This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race. Bloomsbury, 2021.
• “The Story of L0pht Heavy Industries,” Parts 1 and 2, Malicious Life, April 2021.
• “Zero Day Brokers,” Darknet Diaries, August 3, 2021.
• The Lazarus Heist, 10-part series from the BBC, April–June, 2021.