The first focused instances of computer threat research and exploitation studies actually began during the 1970s and were not even related to computers; they were instead noted as a problem in the telephone-switching network. The phone system was growing so fast and becoming so large that the system had to be integrated and automated to survive. This first automated phone system was built to serve a large test environment, and immediately many problems were discovered. Calls originated and ended on their own, phone numbers were allocated to persons without phones, and a myriad of other issues came to light.
These initial issues were not actually considered a threat as much as they were thought to be a problem for the owners of the systems and those administering the networks. In the 1980s, the modem became the powerhouse means of connecting and managing the large networks that were becoming more and more commonplace, and as such modems became the primary point of compromise from which systems could be hacked.
While there are many different opinions about the first real virus on a computer system, the reality of this becoming a problem for computers did not become prevalent in public literature until the computer became a household item in the mid-1980s. During the "age of modems," groups like the 414s, a group of modem hackers whose name came from their area code, were identified and arrested by the FBI (Hansman, 2003).
The 414 group targeted and exploited the phone networks and modems of Los Alamos National Laboratory and a center for cancer research, using a combination of malicious code and a deep understanding of the flaws in the automation technology that was used by the phone companies at that time. Not long after this first noted computer threat campaign was finalized, the federal government passed the Computer Crime and Abuse Act (CISPA 2010). This legislation detailed what constituted a protected computer and the resulting punishment for those who sought to conduct malicious actions against any protected system (Grance, Kent, & Kim, 2004).