Happy 40th Birthday, Computer Virus

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The computer virus has turned 40.


Long before PCs were a staple on every desk, the Creeper virus made its debut in 1971. It was developed by an employee at BBN, the company that built ARPANET, the Internet's predecessor. As Guillaume Lovet wrote on the Fortinet blog:

Creeper looks for a machine on the network, transfers to it, displays the message "I'm the creeper, catch me if you can!" and starts over, thereby hoping from system to system. It was a pure proof of concept that ties the roots of computer viruses to those of the Internet.

I wonder if Bob Thomas, the guy who created Creeper, knew what he was giving birth to. According to Lovet:

The last four decades saw the number of malware instances boom from 1,300 in 1990, to 50,000 in 2000, to over 200 million in 2010. Besides sheer quantity, viruses, which were originally used as academic proof of concepts, quickly turned into geek pranks, then evolved into cybercriminal tools. By 2005, the virus scene had been monetized, and virtually all viruses were developed with the sole purpose of making money via more or less complex business models.

For most of us, the first virus to make headlines was the I Love You worm, which would mail itself to everyone in your contact list if you opened the attachment. I remember it shut down the computer system in my office for two days as computer support worked to erase it.


Today, we have to worry about things like Zeus and Stuxnet infiltrating financial networks and utilities -- and are much harder to get rid of.


Usually, a 40th birthday is celebrated with black balloons and "Over the Hill" signs. Better we "celebrate" this particular birthday with upgrading our AV software.