When you think about the rapid improvements in computing over the decades, it’s really amazing to behold the changes that have taken place. It’s a popular refrain to say that your calculator has more computing power than the first space capsule that took people to the moon but to actually realize how much more is staggering. Early computers didn’t even have onboard memory – everything was stored on physical memory devices that were separate, first punch cards, and later magnetic memory. As memory evolved, though, the information contained on it came under threat from hackers. As memory has changed, so has threats to it.
When computing devices were first invented, data was stored on punch cards. Each punch card could only contain about 80 bits of data – that’s about ten characters, as in the word “television”. Making computations with so much physical data must have been extremely time consuming, but over time data storage improved exponentially.
By 1956, IBM had released the RAMAC 305 magnetic disc drive. It stood 15 feet tall and weighed in at over a ton. It could hold only 3.75MB of data, roughly 3.75 million characters, or 1.875 million words – about nine copies of Moby Dick. Still, it was revolutionary as it allowed for random access to information rather than having to find the correct storage card or drum with the information you were looking for.
In 1967 IBM created the first floppy disk, which could hold 80kb of data. That’s not a lot – one 40,000 word report – but it was considerably more portable than the storage of the time. Once floppy discs were widely available to the public, people began sharing information with one another and an entire aftermarket software industry was created.
With Storage Comes Computer Viruses
Shortly after this, super convenient and ultra-portable storage was created, the first computer virus was created. It was done as an experiment and never actually threatened any information, but it did spark the age of cybersecurity.
By 1988 the Morris Worm infected one in ten internet-connected computers within the first 24 hours, and the following year Dr. Popp ransomware would hold valuable information hostage in exchange for cash. It was a shock to the system. After laying dormant for 90 power cycles, the ransomware would demand $378 for a “software lease.”
This prompted the next wave of computer storage – backup. If there was a threat of losing everything on your computer – your business files, especially – having a backup of these files would be insurance against ransomware. At least for a little while.
These days most storage is in the cloud, which has led to another level of security needs. Security spending has grown over the decades, and most companies say they expect to see security needs continue to grow in cost and severity. More advances in tech will continue to lead to more needs in security.
Learn more about the evolution of data storage and the subsequent evolution of information security from the infographic below.
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