Occurred from 1980 to 1989. During the early 1980s, innovation in technology continued, having a long-term and very positive impact on society. For example, in 1981, IBM announced a stand-alone personal computer with a central processing unit, software, memory, utilities, and storage. IBM called it what it was: a personal computer, or PC. Also in the early 1980s, two hacker groups—the U.S. Legion of Doom (LoD) and the German Chaos Computer Club (CCC) were started, as was 2600: The Hacker Quarterly.
In the early 1980s, dark clouds also settled over the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab as it split into factions by initial attempts to commercialize Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, some of MIT’s best White Hats left the AI Lab for high-paying jobs at start-up companies.
In 1982, a group of creative UNIX hackers from Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley founded Sun Microsystems, Inc. on the assumption that UNIX running on cheap 68000-based hardware would be a winning combination on a wide range of applications. The Sun Microsystem hacker elites were absolutely correct and their insights set the pattern for an entire industry.
Also in 1982, Richard Stallman (a.k.a. RMS) founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF), dedicating himself to producing high-quality free software. He began constructing an entire UNIX clone that was written in C and made available to the hacker community free of charge. His project, known as GNU (GNU’s Not Unix) operating system quickly engaged those in the hacker community.
In 1983, the movie War Games was made to publicize the covert faces of the Black Hats and particularly the 414-gang, but after viewing the film, many youths who previously had no interest in hacking or in phreaking saw the positive “social benefits” of engaging in such acts.
The early 1980s also brought in legislation intended to curb cracking. For example, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act handed the U.S. Secret Service control over credit card and computer fraud cases, and by the end of the 1980s, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act gave even more power to federal authorities to catch and convict crackers.
Also by the late 1980s, the United States defense agencies formed the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Carnegie Mellon University to investigate the growing volume of cracks on computer networks.
In 1988, Robert Morris released his Internet worm. Cracking 6,000 Internet-linked computers, Morris was given the distinction of being the first person to be convicted under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. Morris got a $10,000 fine for his exploits and many, many hours of community service. Today he is a professor at MIT.
Also in 1988, at age 25, hacker Kevin Poulsen (a.k.a. Dark Dante) was arrested for phone tampering after he took over all the phone lines connecting the Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM to make sure that he would be the 102nd caller—and the winner of a Porsche 944 S2.
Finally, toward the end of the 1980s, four young females in Europe known as TBB (The Beautiful Blondes) became famous for their cracking exploits. They specialized in C64 exploits and were known individually simply as BBR, BBL, BBD, and TBB. Sadly, BBR and TBB—both teenaged programmers—died in 1993.
Schell, B.H., Dodge, J.L., with S.S. Moutsatsos. The Hacking of America: Who’s Doing It, Why, and How. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2002.