Computer security is a hot issue today, but it’s an issue that’s been simmering for many years. The development of government security regulations and standards, research into security mechanisms, and debates over the threats to information and the costs of protecting against these threats—all of these activities are well into their fourth decade. Computer security itself isn’t new. What’s new is security’s broader focus (security means more than just keeping outsiders out) and its wider appeal (security is important to business and folks at home as well as government).
This chapter describes how we got to where we are today. It summarizes key events in the history of computer security, discusses some of the government standards and programs involved with computer security, and introduces the concept of computer databases and the preservation of privacy.
Information security is almost as old as information itself. Whenever people develop new methods of recording, storing, or transmitting information, these innovations are almost inevitably followed by methods of harnessing the new technologies and protecting the information they process. They’re also followed by government investigations and controls. For example:
In 1793, the first commercial semaphore system (use of mechanized flags) was established between two locations near Paris. Semaphore signaling came to be used throughout France, Italy, Germany, and Russia. Thousands ...