Network security became a topic as soon as people started realizing that there was intrinsic value in data. This happened in a series of events as the Information and Digital Age unfolded in the second half of the 20th century.
In the late 1960s and into the early 1970’s, digital storage became a reality. Large, room-sized mainframes were responsible for storing this information, and access to those storage repositories was granted by plugging directly into the mainframe itself or accessing the mainframe’s data from one of many terminals inside of the building. Early adopters of digital storage technology didn’t have a problem protecting company sensitive information as you actually had to be inside the building to get to the information.
Less than a decade later, as more and more data was stored, there was a shift in thinking: Data had value and large helpings of personally identifiable information. During this shift, information started becoming a commodity. Credit card data, bank account numbers, profit and loss statements, personal details, demographic information on large population groups… This proliferation of digital data brought with it the unprecedented risk of the most sensitive of information ending up in the hands of the wrong people.
The introduction of online access and the Internet exacerbated this risk. Not only did companies have large amounts of personal information on employees and customers, they also started sharing, selling, and repackaging this data.
The genesis of cybercrime and the modern approach to protection came about as a result of data becoming a commodity. Anything with value can be bought, sold, and most importantly, stolen. Companies now had to face the new reality that their sensitive information needed to be kept safe from cybercriminals.