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From the Internet's beginnings in the early 1970s, it has always been a virtual wild west for the most part. Hackers have been using it for decades to break into universities and government agencies. Then, starting in the late 1980s through the 1990s as the Internet grew in popularity, more companies started doing business on it and the hacker attacks increased dramatically.
In the mid-1990's, the World Wide Web was introduced. This brought new businesses of all sizes and millions of new users to the web every year. Soon, hackers started attacking individual home users. Most of these businesses and users were not ready for the new threats they faced at the time, so they became easy targets.
Today consumers and businesses are much better prepared than in the past. This is primarily because awareness of these threats has grown as the mainstream media started covering these issues. Also companies like Microsoft have repaired known vulnerabilities and hardened the operating systems and applications against different types of attacks.
Even with these advances, there are still several threats. There are some threats that technologies can protect us from, such as your computer's firewall which keeps out the bad network traffic and lets in the good. There are other threats that technology can't protect us from, such as revealing confidential information (e.g. your Social Security number, financial information, user account information, etc.) that shouldn't be given out.