Flashback: My first cybersecurity “discovery”

So, when I was 12 years old (at least I think I was) I didn’t have a functioning computer. My father contacted one of my neighbor and he had a spare laptop he didn’t use for a long time. He gave it to my family and I finally had something to amuse me.

The year was 2006. I was living in a small village located in northern Bosnia & Herzegovina, 40 kilometers away from the nearest town. Not an ideal place to live, I know. Having an internet in a place like that in that age was a privilege that not a lot of people could afford.

So, I had a laptop that was previously used, no internet connection and not a lot of games. The laptop had Windows 98 installed. Unlike my family, that neighbor that gave us that laptop had an internet access. So, I started tinkering with it to see what’s in there. I accessed system folder in that thing and after a few days I noticed a directory that sounded fun: Temporary Internet Files. That sounded like fun. I had no idea what was stored in there but I wanted to find out. So I opened a directory. It had numerous amount of subdirectories and some picture files. Hm, I wonder what kind of images were there. And then, I made my first cybersecurity discovery.

That directory was packed with porn pictures. Literally hundreds of them. I haven’t used such an old Windows system since then, but I guess my neighbor used Internet Explorer and I guess that Internet Explorer kept all of temporary pictures inside that folder back then.

At the time, I was really into command prompt. I didn’t know what it does and I didn’t know any commands on it, but I wanted to find out how to use it. So I started typing some random commands and once I typed in: help. That command gave me a list of all available cmd commands so I started to tinker with my laptop. I managed to do some basic changes to the system using cmd. I changed the time and date of the system and I couldn’t be more proud of me than I was back then.

So, to combine these two stories. I knew about that Temporary Internet Files folder and I didn’t know pretty much anything about cmd and what it does. I remember once I opened up my cmd, pressed Ctrl+Enter (keyboard shortcut that opened cmd in full screen back then). So I started typing this long text as a command. That text included my opinion about that neighbor after I discovered that directory. Yeah, you could only imagine what a 12 year old boy would think about some friend of his father after he discovered that. So I typed it and at the end I wrote a sentence that basically said: If you ever read this, stay away from John Doe! And I pressed enter. The command did nothing of course, it was just some plain text written in my native language. I know, what a dumb thing to do.

So, I never looked at that neighbor the same after that of course. I felt like a detective that found out something valuable. I remember coming to their house one day with my family, playing with his daughters, and looking for a chance to somehow get in his bedroom unnoticed so I could find out more. Yeah, I thought he was a freaking child molester or something. In the end, I didn’t get the chance to get to his bedroom unnoticed, so I gave up.

After that, that laptop got some hardware problems and it eventually stopped working. My detective story has ended there. But, six or seven years later, I started studying more about computer networks so I could protect people like my poor neighbor who just wanted to watch some porn videos unnoticed. And so, my journey into cybersecurity field has begun.

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