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By  Valentina Dal Mas

The realm of cyber security has undergone a remarkable evolution over the past three decades, transforming from a niche concern into a global imperative. As we navigate through the digital age, it’s fascinating to look back on the journey that has brought us to our current state of heightened awareness and advanced technological defences. This retrospective offers a comprehensive overview of the significant milestones and challenges that have shaped the landscape of cyber security from the dawn of the internet age to the present day.  

1990s: The Dawn of Public Internet and the Rise of Cyber Threats  

The 1990s heralded a pivotal shift in the world of computing, with the internet becoming publicly accessible, ushering in an era of unprecedented connectivity. This newfound digital frontier, however, quickly became a playground for cyber criminals. The decade saw the emergence of some of the first notable cyber attacks, including the infamous Morris Worm of 1988, which, although predating the decade, set the stage for future threats. This period also marked the advent of commercial antivirus software, a response to the growing menace of viruses that threatened personal and organisational data. The creation of the first antivirus programs in the late ’80s, such as the Ultimate Virus Killer and McAfee’s VirusScan, highlighted the burgeoning industry’s efforts to combat malicious software.  

Sapphire was established in 1996 initially as an IT facilities company. We quickly recognised how the landscape was evolving and branched out into secure web application development and security technologies. In 1999, we launched our flagship event and the NISC Community. The National Information Security Conference (NISC) was developed to focus on promoting security awareness through peer-to-peer collaboration. 

Since the early noughties, Sapphire has been a dedicated security provider with a nationwide presence across the UK. With our team of dedicated experts and partners, we work with our clients to find clarity in complexity and help safeguard and future-proof their security postures. 

2000s: The Era of Diversification and Sophistication in Cyber Threats  

In the early 2000s, Sapphire emerged as early adopter of secure remote access, playing a fundamental role in bringing Whale SSL VPN air gap technology to the UK. This period marked a rapid expansion of the internet, accompanied by a diversification of cyber threats. The era was characterised by an increase in the sophistication of attacks, with worms and trojans exploiting vulnerabilities in widely used operating systems and applications. High-profile incidents such as the ILOVEYOU virus and the Code Red worm underscored the global nature of cyber threats and the potential for massive disruption. Governments worldwide began to recognise the importance of cyber security, leading to the enactment of laws and regulations aimed at protecting critical infrastructure and combating cyber crime.  

2010s: The Age of State-Sponsored Attacks and Ransomware  

As the digital landscape continued to evolve, so too did the nature of cyber threats. The 2010s were marked by the emergence of state-sponsored cyber attacks, signalling a shift towards cyber warfare and espionage. The revelation of sophisticated threats like Stuxnet, a malicious worm designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, demonstrated the potential for cyber attacks to have real-world geopolitical consequences. Additionally, this decade witnessed the rise of ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. High-profile ransomware attacks, such as WannaCry and NotPetya, affected thousands of organisations worldwide, causing billions of dollars in damages. 

Amidst these evolving threats, BSI launched the new standard ISO27001:2013, replacing the previous ISO27001:2007 and formerly known as BS7799. After 15 years of successfully helping organisations certify to BS7799 and ISO 27001, Sapphire achieved a 100% success rate in transitioning them to ISO27001:2013. This milestone underscored Sapphire’s commitment to staying at the forefront of cyber security standards and assisting organisations in adapting to the evolving threat landscape.  

2020s: The Next Frontier in Cyber security  

As we move into the 2020s, the cyber security landscape continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace. The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the advent of 5G technology are opening new frontiers for connectivity, as well as new vulnerabilities. Cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to bypass traditional security measures. In response, the cyber security industry is innovating at lightning speed, developing advanced solutions like behavioural analytics and zero-trust architectures to protect against the next generation of cyber threats.In 2020, Sapphire launched its Managed Security Services offering, including the establishment of its own Security Operations Center (SOC) team in Glasgow. This expansion marked Sapphire’s commitment to providing comprehensive cyber security solutions to its clients. Additionally, in 2023, Sapphire made a strategic move by acquiring Awen Collective, a cyber security software company dedicated to reducing the risks of cyberattacks to Operational Technology (OT). This acquisition enabled Sapphire to further enhance its service offering, particularly in addressing the growing concerns surrounding OT security. With the global OT security market predicted to be worth $38.2 billion by 2028 and targeted cyber attacks on the rise, organisations are increasingly seeking guidance and support on how to identify and mitigate cyber security threats in their converged environments. Sapphire recognised this need and expanded its portfolio to incorporate the extensive knowledge and experience of the OT cyber domain that Awen has amassed. Despite the ongoing threat of ransomware, Sapphire remains dedicated to fortifying organisational defences and safeguarding against emerging cyber threats.  


The history of cyber security over the past 30 years is a testament to the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the digital world. From the early days of antivirus software to the complex landscape of today’s cyber threats, the field of cyber security has grown in importance and complexity. As we look to the future, it’s clear that cyber security will remain a critical concern, requiring continuous innovation and collaboration among governments, industries, and individuals to protect our digital lives. In this ongoing battle against cyber crime, understanding our past is crucial to securing our future, making the history of cyber security more relevant than ever. Working in partnership with our clients is important to us, and we offer an extensive range of services & solutions to meet the security challenges businesses face today. We consider our most important asset to be our people and always encourage our customers to meet us.  

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