In today's society, where technology and the Internet seem to dominate our daily lives, a new villain has entered our consciousness. The hacker is feared by many, but respected by few. Everyone seems to know who hackers are and what they do, but there is a major misconception about hackers that nobody seems to pick up on. .
Hacking itself has been around for decades, but it is only recently, with outbreaks of computer viruses and media attention that the general public has really looked at hacking as a genuine threat to their way of life.
The media would have you believe that hackers are a major threat, but it turns out that most hackers are pretty harmless. But there is another breed of hacker, though, who is very dangerous indeed. It's important to recognize the difference. Hackers are not crackers, and crackers are not hackers.
The first major computing networks were of course the telephone networks, so it makes sense that they were the first networks to be "hacked." Hacking telephone networks is called "phreaking," and it got its start around the late 1960's and early 1970's. The first phreaks were college students with access to telephone company manuals that taught them the ins and outs of the phone system and allowed them to exploit it. Other effective phreaks were blind people whose heightened sense of hearing allowed them to pick up on frequencies and assorted sounds that allowed them to mess around on the phone system (Schwartau, 2000).
The most famous of the early phreaks was John Draper, a Vietnam veteran with a background in radio and electrical engineering. John received a phone call from a few blind kids who lived in his neighborhood who were interested in his help creating a "blue box," a device that emits special phone company tones that allow you to control the system and make free phone calls. John became interested and got to work on a blue box using the information the blind kids gave him ("Cap"n Crunch in Cyberspace," 2003).