Feeds

Computer virus turns 25

Many unhappy returns

High performance access to file storage

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).

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
Bad PUPPY: Undead Windows XP deposits fresh scamware on lawn
Installing random interwebs shiz will bork your zombie box
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.