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By Chester Avey
Sun | Aug 18, 2019 | 8:04 AM PDT

Cybersecurity is a major issue for every business with any kind of internet presence—and that's pretty much every single one. Your cybersecurity can affect everything from compliance and data safety to your staffing budgets and much more.

Let's take a look through the history of cybersecurity in order to see how the practice has advanced over the years.

1971: The first computer virus is discovered

You might assume that computers had to be invented before the concept of the computer virus could exist; but in a certain sense, this isn't quite right at all. It was mathematician John von Neumann who first conceptualized the idea with his paper released in 1949, in which he suggested the concept of a self-replicating automatic entity working within a computer.

It wasn't until 1971 that the world would see a computer virus in the real world. DEC PDP-10 computers working on the TENEX operating system started displaying messages saying "I'm the creeper, catch me if you can!". While this virus was designed only to see if the concept was possible, it laid the groundwork for viruses to come.

1983: The first patent for cybersecurity in the US

As computers and systems became more advanced, it was not long until technology experts around the world were looking for ways to patent aspects of computer systems. And it was in 1983 that the first patent related to cybersecurity was granted.

In September of that year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was granted U.S. patent 4,405,829 for a cryptographic communications system. Interestingly, given that this was the very first patent, it is actually still quite relevant today, as cryptography forms a major part of cybersecurity strategies.

1993: The first DEF CON conference runs

If you've never heard of DEF CON, it's probably because you don't work in the cybersecurity industry. This conference is well-known as the major cybersecurity technical conference, and a fixture in the calendar of professionals, ethical hackers, technology journalists, IT experts, and many more.

The conference first ran in June 1993. It was organized by Jeff Moss and attended by around 100 people. However, it wouldn't stay that small for very long. Today, the conference is attended by over 20,000 cybersecurity professionals from around the world every year.

1995: SSL rears its head

There is a security protocol that we are often guilty of taking for granted. The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is an internet protocol that makes it safe and possible to do things that we think of as commonplace, such as buying items online securely.

After the first-ever web browser was released, the company Netscape began working on the SSL protocol. It was in February 1995 that Netscape launched SSL 2.0, which would become the key language for securely using the internet; the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). This was perhaps the most important cybersecurity measure for many years.

2003: Anonymous is created

Perhaps the most famous hacking group in the word, Anonymous made a name for themselves by committing cyberattacks against targets that were considered to generally be bad. The group has no specific leader and is in fact a collection of a large number of users, which may contribute in big or small ways.

The group came to prominence in 2003 and has carried out many successful hacking attempts against organizations such as the Church of Scientology. Anonymous hackers are characterized by their wearing of Guy Fawkes masks.

2010: Hacking uncovered at a national level

Google surprised the world in 2010, when it disclosed a security breach of its infrastructure in China—a project it named "Operation Aurora." Before 2010, it had been very unusual for organizations to announce data breaches.

Google's initial belief was that the attackers were attempting to gain access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. However, it was later discovered that it was in fact Chinese intelligence operatives in the U.S. The attack was perpetrated against more than 50 companies.

Today: Cybersecurity is more important than ever

It has never been more important for businesses to take cybersecurity seriously. It has the power now to effect just about everything from search engine optimization (SEO) to overall company budgets and spending needs.

Organizations must learn from the fast growth in the history of cybersecurity in order to make smart decisions for the future.