NSDD-145: the first national security directive on hacking

by Chris Zappone

The first White House policy directive on hacking was issued in 1984, calling for “a comprehensive and coordinated approach…to protect the government’s telecommunications and automated information systems.”

reagan

The backstory to this directive is a little more colorful.

According to Fred Kaplan’s book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, the directive came after Ronald Reagan watched the 1983 film ‘War Games‘ and then asked his national security advisers if a hacker could access sensitive government computers.

Kaplan writes: After finishing his synopsis [of the film], Reagan turned to Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and asked: “Could something like this really happen?” Could someone break into our most sensitive computers? General Vessey said he would look into it.

One week later, the general returned to the White House with his answer. “WarGames,” it turned out, wasn’t far-fetched. “Mr. president,” he said, “the problem is much worse than you think.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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