Celesq® Programs

Smells Like Teen Hackers: The Secret Origin Story of American Cybersecurity

Active
Program Number
3178
Program Date
2021-03-30

This webinar explores how fictional scares and even more worrisome “stranger than fiction” scares in 1983 led to the enactment of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFA) and the Computer Security Act of 1987. The historical framing is used to explain why certain limitations or peculiar features of these laws were enacted. This discussion also examines criticisms of these computer security laws by civil libertarians and privacy advocates, and ways in which the laws have been challenged and amended to address those critiques. In many ways, the secret origin story of American cybersecurity begins in 1983, when the very idea of computer crimes seemed to many like science fiction. Personal computers were still a novelty, and the only users of the Internet were government scientists. But U.S. defense analysts foresaw risks from hostile governments like Russia, as well as terrorists and criminals, not to mention mischief from garden variety hackers. Their fears fell on deaf ears… until the fateful day that Ronald Reagan saw the movie WarGames. While President Reagan directed the government to shore up computer security to avoid a WarGames scenario coming to life, as it happened the events of the movie actually were occurring. In 1983, a group of teenage hackers in Milwaukee who called themselves the “414s” went looking for ways to play video games online. In this quest, they managed to break into the computer systems of the Los Alamos National Lab, home of the U.S. nuclear program. Their escapade alarmed authorities into action, recognizing that the cyber threat dramatized by Hollywood was real. The 17-year-old hacker who led the infiltration testified before Congress on the need for better password security, and inspired the cybersecurity laws still in effect today.

Available in States

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Texas Self Study

Program Categories

  • Administrative Law & Regulations
  • Asset Protection
  • Business Organizations & Contracts
  • Communications and Media Law
  • Computer, Internet & E-Commerce Law
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Security and Outsourcing
  • Federal Courts
  • Florida Eligible
  • Privacy and Data Security
  • Privacy Law

Presenters