Five Pioneers of the Cybersecurity Field

Five Pioneers of the Cybersecurity Field

During Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the University of Fairfax wants to highlight those that helped build the cybersecurity field and those that are leading it today. From the very first computer “virus” to the expert consultancy from a world-renowned hacker, cybersecurity has come a long way since the 1970s.

Bob Thomas and Ray Tomlinson

(No found images of Bob Thomas) Bob Thomas wrote packets for the internet precursor, ARPANET. While trying to create an experimental self-automating program, Thomas created the Creeper virus—named after a villain on Scooby Doo, that displayed “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!” when corrupting the DEC-10 mainframe computers. Though called a virus and it corrupted computers, it wasn’t malware by any standard—more so a nuisance to the staff of the computers it affected since it would display that aforementioned message across their screens. It was the first instance of applications moving automatically from one computer to the next. This creation resulted in further research on how to restrain the annoying effects of the creeper.


Though Ray Tomlinson is the creator of email, even using the infamous user@host structure, he also created the world’s first computer anti-virus. Tomlinson, who was a colleague of Thomas’, created another version of the creeper virus, called the Reaper. It moved through the ARPANET and replicated itself, finding copies of the creeper on computers and logging them out. Some sources say Bob Thomas was the one who created the reaper virus after his own creeper, while others definitively say otherwise and that Ray Tomlinson truly created the reaper. However, with creeper being the first virus and reaper the first anti-virus, the field of cybersecurity was born.



Rebecca “Becky” Bace

Rebecca Bace, coined the “Den Mother of Computer Security” was well known for her want to mentor and be a role model for new people and young companies in the cybersecurity industry. Bace spent twelve years in the National Security Agency (NSA), where she created the Computer Misuse and Anomaly Detection (CMAD) research program. She become one of the leading pioneers for intrusion detection—entire companies exist because of Becky’s work. Julian Waits refers to Becky Bace as “a maverick and a catalyst for women in cybersecurity” because of all of her work for the cybersecurity field. Though she passed in 2017, her work spoke for itself as she was inducted into the Cybersecurity Hall of Fame in 2019.





Dorothy Denning

Dorothy Denning is known for her cybersecurity research and is recognized as one the world’s leading experts in information security. Her research includes over 200 articles and four books, and is well known for her lattice-based access control (LBAC)—she developed the model on secure information flow and techniques for protecting sensitive data, among many other contributions—and intrusion detection systems (IDS). She is an Emeritus Distinguished Professor at the Department of Defense Analysis Naval Postgraduate School. She is a part of the faculty associate with the Center on Terrorism and Irregular Warfare and with the Center for Information Systems Security Studies and Research.  She has been named to the ISSA Hall of Fame, awarded the CSO COMPASS award, named as both a CISSP and as a CISM honoris causa, and elected as a Fellow of the ACM. She was inducted into the Cybersecurity Hall of Fame in 2012.





Kevin Mitnick

Though Kevin Mitnick has had a controversial past of hacking, he has turned the knowledge and skills he has from crimes to consulting. Now Mitnick, with his company Mitnick Security, will perform a service of penetration testing. He and his team will simulate attacks, and then move forward with plans on how to strengthen their client’s cybersecurity. With his past of hacking into forty companies’ networks in the 1990’s and landing on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, Mitnick has the insight to what vulnerabilities hackers attack. Fortune 500 companies look to him for his consulting and expertise, where Leading Authorities call him “the world’s authority on hacking, social engineering, and security awareness training. In fact, the world’s most used computer-based end-user security awareness training suite bears his name.”




The field of cybersecurity had humble beginnings and has only grown quickly from there. Men and women have developed the field and brought many incredibly discoveries and new defenses to secure the nation. Bob Thomas and Ray Tomlinson created the field itself with their experiments, while Becky Bace, Dorothy Denning, and Kevin Mitnick helped propel it into the future. Their work is what has driven the nation for security and the ever-growing need for cybersecurity professionals. Their contributions are why University of Fairfax stands where it is—to educate the next class of career professionals doing what they can to secure the nation and its people. To learn how you can join our next course session of cybersecurity,

The University of Fairfax – Secure Your Future

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