Feeds

Computer virus turns 25

Many unhappy returns

Seven Steps to Software Security

The computer virus turns 25 this month. Long-suffering computer users would be forgiven for thinking that the first computer virus appeared in the mid-1980s, but the first virus actually predates the arrival of the first IBM-compatible PC.

Elk Cloner, which spread between Apple II computers via infected floppy disks, has the dubious distinction of the first computer virus1 to spread in the wild. The malware is thought to be the work of Rich Skrenta, a 15-year-old high school student from Pittsburgh, who released it in July 1982.

The payload of Elk Cloner was largely benign, harking back to an earlier more innocent age before today's generation of Trojans that turn compromised PCs into clients on zombie networks controlled for profit-motivated cybercrooks. Elk Cloner's payload was merely a verse or two of poetry. Mostly harmless. Although the malware did set the theme for a stream of annoying pieces of malware which popped up on the screens of Apple II, BBC Micro and, later, early PC users' screens.

"Back then it was just a prank. A bit of fun. Today's malware is frequently malevolent and coded by criminals and/or hackers who are intent on extracting money from - as well as destroying the data of - innocent computer users and the organisations they work for," said Phil Higgins, a senior partner with security integrator Brookcourt Solutions. "An example of this is the MPack tool kit which is being used by criminals to infect legitimate websites and then deliver a crimeware payload to unsuspecting visitors." ®

Bootnote

1 Some historians of computer malware, such as Kaspersky Labs, reckon the Creeper virus, which was detected on ARPANET, ought to be considered the first computer virus. The majority, however, date the first computer virus back to Elk Cloner, the first to affect personal computers.

Science has a detailed perspective on the history of computer viruses here (registration required).

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.