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The World's First Computer Password? It Was Useless Too | Wired.com


Stashed in: MIT TR, Hackers!

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Twenty-five years after the fact, Allan Scherr, a Ph.D. researcher at MIT in the early ’60s, came clean about the earliest documented case of password theft.

In the spring of 1962, Scherr was looking for a way to bump up his usage time on CTSS. He had been allotted four hours per week, but it wasn’t nearly enough time to run the detailed performance simulations he’d designed for the new computer system. So he simply printed out all of the passwords stored on the system.

“There was a way to request files to be printed offline by submitting a punched card,” he remembered in a pamphlet written last year to commemorate the invention of the CTSS. “Late one Friday night, I submitted a request to print the password files and very early Saturday morning went to the file cabinet where printouts were placed and took the listing.”

To spread the guilt around, Scherr then handed the passwords over to other users. One of them — J.C.R. Licklieder — promptly started logging into the account of the computer lab’s director Robert Fano, and leaving “taunting messages” behind.

Scherr left MIT in May 1965 to take a job at IBM, but 25 years later he confessed to Professor Fano in person. “He assured me that my Ph.D. would not be revoked.”

So is the fingerprint password on iPhone 5s a step in the right direction?

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