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History of Cyber Security: Critical Essay

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“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or being interpreted as “Who watches the watchmen?” This phrase is used generally to consider the personification of the theoretical question as to how power can be held to account. It is sometimes incorrectly attributed as a direct quotation from Plato's Republic in both popular media and academic contexts. There is no exact parallel in the Republic, but it is used by modern authors to express Socrates' concerns about the guardians, the solution to which is to properly train their souls. Socrates recommended a guardian class to protect that society, and the custodes (watchmen) from the Satires are often interpreted as being parallel to the Platonic guardians. Socrates' answer to the problem is that the guardians will be manipulated to guard themselves against themselves a deception often called the 'noble lie' in English.

Throughout history, we’ve seen nation-states trying to destabilize each other through covert activity, whether it be spying, sabotage, or subversion. The existential growth of the internet in the 1990s created a new frontier in the area of espionage. It wasn’t long before we began to download portentous warnings about cyberwarfare. Is it possible that a country’s enemies could shut down their power grid, hack financial institutions, render telephone communications moot, and hijack missiles?

In the age of hacktivists and data storage (think iCloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive) the comfort of privacy seems to be one of the past. Hacktivist has made anxiety an uninvited guest in homes across this globe to those hooked up to the “life support” of internet/ethernet cords and the invisible angel called WIFI. In recent years we have seen the unfortunate hand of hacking as it pertains to celebrities, government officials, and everyday regular John’s and Jane’s. Leaked nudes, identity theft, wiki Leaks, and data breaches have rocked all of us. Now one may ask, what is hacking? “Hacking refers to activities that seek to compromise digital devices, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and even entire networks. And while hacking might not always be for malicious purposes, nowadays most references to hacking, and hackers, characterize it/them as unlawful activity by cybercriminals—motivated by financial gain, protest, information gathering (spying), and even just for the “fun” of the challenge. (

“Many think that “hacker” refers to some self-taught whiz kid or rogue programmer skilled at modifying computer hardware or software so it can be used in ways outside the original developers' intent. But this is a narrow view that doesn't begin to encompass the wide range of reasons why someone turns to hacking.” (

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“Hacking is typically technical in nature (like creating malvertising that deposits malware in a drive-by attack requiring no user interaction). But hackers can also use psychology to trick the user into clicking on a malicious attachment or providing personal data. These tactics are referred to as “social engineering.” (

For much of the ’70s and ’80s, threats to computer security were clear and present. But these threats were in the form of malicious insiders reading documents they shouldn’t. The practice of computer security revolving around governance risk and compliance (GRC) therefore progressed separately from the history of computer security software. The Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria (TCSEC) is a United States Government Department of Defense (D.O.D.) standard that sets basic requirements for assessing the effectiveness of computer security controls built into a computer system. The TCSEC was used to evaluate, classify, and select computer systems being considered for the processing, storage, and retrieval of sensitive or classified information.

What do China, Russia, and the United States have in common? According to CSE.WUSTL.EDU states “Although many countries all over the world are committing cyber espionage, the United States, Russia, and China are considered the most advanced and most prolific cyber spies. Throughout the last decade, the United States has started to incorporate cyber warfare into its war doctrine. Preparation first began in 2002 with National Security Presidential Directive 16, which outlined strategies, doctrines, procedures, and protocols for cyber warfare. This was followed by the Information Operations Roadmap, published by the Department of Defense in 2003, which started to incorporate cyber warfare preparations, such as training military personnel in cyber defense, as part of normal military operations [Schaap]. In 2009, the United States military established the US Cyber Command in Fort Meade, Maryland. The United States is also starting to devote more funding to securing infrastructure that may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, such as electricity, oil, water, and gas systems [Stone].

“Another major player in the cyber espionage game is China. In recent years China has increased the amount of time, resources, and manpower spent on cyber espionage. China’s People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, includes a special bureau under the intelligence department specifically for cyber intelligence and it enlists programmers right out of college [Stone]. According to recent intelligence reports, the PLA is not only capable of advanced surveillance and espionage but also possesses malware that can take down foreign electricity or water grids [Stone]. Though it is usually difficult to confirm the source of any given cyber-attack, according to an October 2011 report to Congress by the United States’ National Counterintelligence Executive, it has been confirmed that China is responsible for attacking the United States’ networks and stealing secure data in several cases. However, instead of causing outright physical damage, most of China's efforts seem to be on stealing financial and economic secrets in order to build its own economy [McConnell, Chertoff, Lynn].

“The final major power in cyber espionage today is Russia. The Russian military is suspected to have cyber weapons more advanced than even China [Paganini 1]. Like China, Russia also has special military units dedicated to cyber espionage, where hackers are recruited straight out of university [Stone]. However, unlike China, Russia uses its cyber power to supplement more aggressive forms of warfare instead of simply stealing economic secrets.” 

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History of Cyber Security: Critical Essay. (2023, October 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“History of Cyber Security: Critical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Oct. 2023,
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History of Cyber Security: Critical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 27 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from:
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