We have seen a vast transformation in our lives as a result of technology. Over time, technology has become more integrated into our homes, at work and on the road. In the 1980s, we had bulletin board systems (BBSs) as a precursor to the internet. At first these BBSs were standalone, but then they were networked together (e.g., FidoNet). Many system operators had run BBSs for fun (as hobbyists) but a few system operators ran them for profit. Nevertheless, there was a distinct sense of community, and BBSs served as a means for a local community to come together, albeit virtually. The height of BBSs was in the 1980s and early 1990s (prior to the public being able to access the internet). Back then, there was not much concern about online privacy, perhaps due to the fact that BBSs had limited amounts of information – there were message forums and files that could be uploaded and downloaded but the reach was somewhat limited (as well as the bandwidth, having to deal with dial-up modems).
Starting in the early 1990s, the public was able to access the internet – primarily through commercial internet service providers and universities. Now, people were able to communicate with others all across the world (without incurring the long distance fees). There were also more ways to communicate, such as through message forums, chat forums and services (e.g., Internet Relay Chat), instant messaging platforms and more. At the time, there was some heightened awareness about online privacy through the use of encryption technologies (such as Pretty Good Privacy, also known as PGP). However, for many, the “early” internet – from 1990 to 2000 – was about exploration, communication, collaboration and fun. Back then, the internet was still fairly small and there were some websites, but not nearly as many as we have today. (Computer viruses did exist, but they were relatively few and far between.)
From the late 1990s to the present time, the internet has experienced tremendous growth and has transformed itself to something more than just a hobby – instead, it became something essential in all of our lives. Whether for business, social, academic or other use, the internet has “tentacles” that reach into all aspects of our lives. Given this dependency, we are vulnerable when there is a compromise or breach of information. For this reason, we must all be sure to question before we click, evaluate before we act and pause before we take any action online.
About the Author
Lee Kim, JD, CISSP, CIPP/US, FHIMSS, is the director of privacy and security for HIMSS North America.