The computer virus celebrates its 40th anniversary

first_imgIf you’ve ever gotten hit with a computer virus, you know how awful they can be. You might be surprised to know that this year marks the 40th anniversary of Creeper, the world’s first computer virus. According to Help Net Security, the last four decades saw malware numbers go from 1,300 in 1990, to 50,000 in 2000. And how about 2010? Last year saw 200 million instances of malware.Though there are far too many to name, Net Security listed some of the most significant computer viruses in the last 40 years, and we picked out some of the most interesting.1971: CreeperAnd so it begins. The first real computer virus was released in a lab by an employee of a company working on building ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor. It gained access via the ARPANET and copied itself into the remote system, displaying the message, “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!” It would start to print a file, stop, and find another system. It would then pick itself up and transfer to another machine, and then start running on the new machine while displaying the message. It rarely, if ever, replicated itself; instead, it just jumped from system to system.1982: Elk ClonerWritten by a 15-year-old high school student, Elk Cloner is one of the first known microcomputer viruses that spread outside the lab in which it was written. The virus was written by Rich Skrenta for Apple II systems. It spread via floppy disks. Infected machines showed a harmless, humorous poem after every 50th boot. It wasn’t meant to actually cause harm, but Apple DOS disks without a standard image had their reserved tracks overwritten.1999: MelissaNamed in honor of a stripper the author met in Florida, Melissa shut down Internet mail systems that got clogged with infected e-mails propagating from the virus. The virus spread via infected Microsoft Word documents and mailed itself to Outlook contacts of the contaminated users. Like the Elk Cloner, it wasn’t intended to do harm, but it overloaded servers and caused problems. Author David L. Smith was caught and went to jail for 20 months with a $5,000 fine.Someone made a variant of the virus that encrypted the infected files and demanded a ransom of $100 for the decryption. Of course, this person was found. However, this is the first case in which someone had used viruses to make a profit. We wouldn’t see this again for another six years with MyTob.2005: MyTobMyTob was the turning point for viruses, which marked the beginning of an era of cybercrime. MyTob, also known as Zotob, was one of the first worms to combine the features of a Bot and a mass-mailer. It exploited security vulnerabilities in Microsoft operating systems like Window 2000. The revenue generated from these botnets quickly grew into billions of dollars per year, and is still growing today. It cost an average of $97,000 as well as 80 hours of cleanup per company that was affected.This is only four of the hundreds of thousands of viruses since the first one appeared 40 years ago. As we reminisce down virus memory lane, feel free to share your virus stories in the comments below.Read more at Help Net Securitylast_img

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