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Cyber Threats History: The Internet Expansion (1990s)

Although hacking expanded and enjoyed glorification during the 80s, a divide was forming within the hacking community by the end of the decade. The hacker principle of “freedom of technology” was changing, and a younger generation interested in individual gain emerged leading to an increase in the number of hackers that were no longer satisfied with benign exploration of systems merely to learn how they worked.

This obscure side fragmented even further as several independent groups formed “electronic gangs,” driven to tap into the sensitive information housed within large institutions, like government and educational research centers. Similarly to what happens with conventional street gangs, it did not take long for these groups to begin fighting each other, and the early 1990s saw an escalation of infighting that jammed phone lines and networks, and ultimately led to the demise and criminal prosecution of several groups. On top of this, the end of the cold war is a very significant factor as it allows the Internet to spread freely across the former URSS, with great impact on both sides of the now rusty Iron Curtain.

Historical Landmarks:

 

1990



The Great Hacker War begins with Legion of Doom and Masters of Deception engaging in almost two years of online warfare –jamming phone lines, monitoring calls, trespassing in each other's private computers.

In response to the AT&T telephone system crash that left 60,000 customers without a phone line for nine hours on January 15, federal authorities burst into Mark Abene's (Phiber Optik) bedroom, guns drawn, and confiscate his computer equipment. Abene and other MOD members have their homes searched and property seized by the U.S. Secret Service largely based on government suspicions of having caused AT&T Corporation's network crash. Some weeks later, AT&T themselves admit that the crash was the result of a flawed software update to the switching systems on their long distance network, thus, human error on their part.

Phiber Optik

A role-playing game company called Steve Jackson Games in Austin, Texas is raided. The Secret Service seizes computers and disks at the company‘s offices and also at the home of one of their employees, Loyd Blankenship (The Mentor) a former member of the Legion of Doom. Blankenship is writing a role-playing game called GURPS Cyberpunk, which the agents interpret as a handbook for computer crime.

GURPS