Nearly two centuries ago, France was hit by the world’s first cyber-attack. Tom Standage argues that it holds lessons for us today
The world’s first national data network was constructed in France during the 1790s. It was a mechanical telegraph system, consisting of chains of towers, each of which had a system of movable wooden arms on top. Different configurations of these arms corresponded to letters, numbers and other characters. Operators in each tower would adjust the arms to match the configuration of an adjacent tower, observed through a telescope, causing sequences of characters to ripple along the line.
The Blanc brothers traded government bonds at the exchange in the city of Bordeaux, where information about market movements took several days to arrive from Paris by mail coach. … They bribed the telegraph operator in the city of Tours to introduce deliberate errors into routine government messages being sent over the network.
The first is to avoid complacency. … Most attackers, like the Blancs, do not advertise their presence. Second, regardless of the technology, security is like a chain and humans are always the weakest link.