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40 Years Since the First Computer Virus

By DominicD
Do you know where the next virus battle ground for 2011 will be?

It has been 40 years since the first known computer virus was made and has successfully infected its first host. We look back at the short 40yr computer security history on this article.

1971 - I am the Creeper

The “creeper” is the first computer virus. It was primarily made as a scientific proof of concept that a program can be made to “creep’ or hop from one computer to the other. This virus was made and tested in a laboratory setting. When it has successfully infected a computer, it displays a message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!”

1982 - Elk Cloner

The Elk Cloner is the first virus to spread outside of a scientific network. It was written by a young 15-year old as a prank for his friends. Elk Cloner spread through via floppy disks. Infected machines displayed a text of poem.

1987 – Jerusalem, The Friday the 13th virus

The Jerusalem virus is first detected from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is one of the first known harmful virus. Each year on Friday the 13th, this virus deleted every single program that’s run on the infected system. This started the trend of destructive viruses.

1999 – Melissa – massive infections to Internet users

The infamous Melissa virus was spread on a massive scale thanks to the growing number of internet connected computers. Dial-up home users, company computers on ISDN and DSL. Melissa propagated through infected Microsoft Word documents and mailed itself to Outlook contacts. It’s unprecedented infection quickly paralyzed many commercial and enterprise email systems. Internet stories about the Melissa virus origins supposedly say that its author named the virus after a Las Vegas stripper named as “Melissa”. Antivirus companies and security firms were publicized largely enough to gain consumer and business attention. The necessity of security programs like antivirus and firewalls made top priorities for computer users.

2000 – The I LOVE YOU virus

Following the virulent success of Melissa, the I LOVE YOU virus made its way to user mailboxes disguising as an email with the subject line “I LOVE YOU”. A very clever “hack” to the then innocent and excited public when it comes to email and digital communication. Despite antivirus programs and firewalls, the spread of the I LOVE YOU virus stormed yet again professional and enterprise email systems. The I LOVE YOU worm created one of the earliest losses in revenue for major enterprises. The cleanup and infected systems and computers was estimated to cost from 5 to 10 billion dollars!

2001 – Code Red

While the Melissa virus used clever “social hacks” to innocently spread, the Code Red virus was made to target the email and server systems themselves. The Code Red virus skipped attacking home and office computers, instead, it targeted and spread from one exploited internet server to the next. This technically scary virus threatened the servers themselves. Microsoft and major computer companies hurried to patch their systems and stop the infection. It was said that Code Red virus seemed to attack the United States White House website. Computer Security Experts suggest this may be the first “hacktivist” virus.

2004 – Sasser will shut you down in 60 seconds

Sasser followed the tracks of Code Red, but only in a more malicious manner. It exploited the internet servers, and then targeted the home computers. This vicious cycle of infection impacted nearly all internet enabled computers – especially Windows XP. One of its known symptoms is the one-minute time that it imposes on an infected system, then shutting it down. Microsoft rushed to distribute information about its prevention and removal.

2005-2007 – The Zombies have arrived!

The aftermath of Sasser made computer users a bit more tech and savvy in terms of online security. However, during these two years, the evils of the internet thought of creating “zombies”. A zombie is a term of an infected computer that unknown to its user, is waiting for its “zombie master” for instructions. Multiple discreet viruses spread while avoiding sophisticated antivirus systems. The zombie computers were put into action depending on the instructions of the leader. Security Experts were quick to track down the “zombie masters’ and disabled them. Without its master, the zombie infected computers were left with nothing to do. In the succeeding antivirus updates, dormant zombie viruses were found and deleted on home and coporate networks. It is still feared that about 500,000 computers are still infected with zombie viruses.

Koobface – The Social Virus Network

Koobface exploited facebook and social networking sites by posing as a video or picture link that required users to update their flash plugins. The fake flash plugin downloaded the Koobface virus, and went off to making more fake posts in social networks.

2009 – Conficker Brings Chaos and Conflict

The Conficker virus works like a zombie network, and spread like worm. P2P File sharing users were tricked to downloading files infected with Conficker. Each infected computer waited for instructions from its remote zombie master, while further spreading to other computers. Confickers clever techniques of disabling the computer’s antivirus programs and preventing access to security websites posed a double threat. The Conficker was indeed a near complete hijack of a working computer. It cleverly disabled potential threats by preventing access to antivirus updates, Windows security updates, and injecting fake or wrong domain information.

Removal of the Conficker virus was quite of a tedious task. Microsoft released a new set of software tools called as “Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool” to automate the disinfection.

2010 – Stuxnet conspiracies of a cyber-war

The Stuxnet virus may not have made headlines in personal blogs and business news. But the Stuxnet is supposedly a virus that was made to spread through all possible means – network, USB flash drive, file sharing, and etc. While it is yet unclear, Stuxnet is said to very specifically target Iran’s nuclear power plant controls.

2011 – Virus happens on your mobile phones

While the continuous threat of computer viruses lurk from all aspects of internet communication, Computer Security Experts agree that the next battle ground is the modern smart phones and tablets. Blackberries, iPhones, Androind OS phones, and Tablet PC’s are next inline for the assault of security threats.

A major concern for this decade of computer and online security is the exploitation of social networks and data. A smart phone containing home and business contacts + sensitive personal files/pictures/videos + credit card and accont information + an ever present and high speed 3G/4G data network == makes the best spying and identity theft device.

It has been 40 years since the first laboratory experiment computer virus was made. Clever and malicious attempts were made to distribute destructive programs to users and business alike. The rules for keeping safe online has always been fundamentally the same. Stay safe, keep reading and be informed, do not trust too much online and offline, think thrice before posting or giving away sensitive information. Ask a friend, ask in website forums, check online news if you are in doubt of a certain website or service.

history reference from 40th anniversary of the computer virus

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