Long before the internet, two brothers, François and Joseph Blanc, pulled off the very first hack in history. This happened way back in 1834, when the coolest tech around was the telegraph. Sounds a bit surreal, but back then those telegraphs did not work with electromagnetic impulses. No, they were optical.

The Blanc brothers’ scheme to intercept telegraph messages involved a system in France called semaphore telegraph. It was a network, operational since 1794, consisting of towers equipped with rotating pieces of metal, which could be positioned to represent different symbols, forming a code that was relayed from tower to tower. Operators at each station would use telescopes to observe the symbols displayed by the preceding tower and then replicate those symbols for the next tower to see, allowing messages to traverse across the country at unprecedented speeds for the time.

Now, imagine Paris and Bordeaux, two big cities in France, chatting away using this telegraph system. It was supposed to be super private, only for sending important money news. But the Blanc brothers had other ideas.

Here’s a simple breakdown of what they did:

  1. Intercepting Messages: The brothers didn’t physically “tap” into the wires. Since there were no physical wires. Instead, they used a mix of social engineering (tricking people) and insiders (people who worked for the telegraph system who could be bribed or persuaded to help them). This way, they got their hands on the messages without needing to be at the telegraph station themselves.
  2. Decoding the Code: Once they had the messages, the next challenge was understanding them. Morse code was widely known, so decoding it wasn’t the hard part. The tricky part was that the financial messages used a code within the code—a predetermined set of symbols that represented different financial terms and stock names. It was like having a secret decoder ring that turned Morse code into specific, actionable financial information. The brothers would need to listen to a lot of messages to start making sense of them. Over time, by comparing the times and dates of messages with known events in the stock market, they could begin to understand certain patterns or code words.
  3. The Secret Advantage: By cracking the code within the code, the Blanc brothers could read the financial news before it became public. Imagine knowing the outcome of a sports game before anyone else does; that’s the kind of edge they had in the stock market.

In essence, their hack was a combination of clever social manipulation and technical skill in deciphering codes. They didn’t need to mess with the actual telegraph hardware; their approach was all about outsmarting the system and the people running it.

So, what’s the big deal about this story? It’s a fun reminder that hacking isn’t just about computers and the internet. It’s about curiosity, being clever, and sometimes, just having a bit of fun seeing if you can find the secret doors in the latest gadgets and systems. The Blanc brothers did just that, and in doing so, they went down in history as the first hackers ever.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *