Celesq® Attorneys Ed Center

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

Program Number: 3178

Program Date: 03/30/2021


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.

$95.00Audio Tape Add to Cart

Available in states

California, Colorado Eligible, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey Eligible, New York, Texas Self Study

Credit Information

50 minute credit hour - 1.00 General CLE credit
60 minute credit hour - 1.00 General CLE credit

State Program Numbers


David Kalat

Berkeley Research Group LLC

David Kalat is a testifying expert in information science and electronic evidence. He leads the Chicago digital forensics lab for BRG’s Global Investigations + Strategic Intelligence practice. He has over 20 years of experience in digital video, which he applies to the forensic examination of video evidence in a variety of contexts including investigations into alleged police misconduct.

Mr. Kalat is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), a Certified Computer Examiner (CCE), a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), an Access Data Certified Examiner (ACE), an Illinois-licensed private detective, and a nonfiction author. He holds a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.