How many of you have felt their device slower, struggling to perform even a simple task? Or maybe worst, the device gave all your personal data away or was completely locked from malware.
Computer viruses are modern nightmares, a big danger, but they started as a silly prove of concept. The goal was to prove they can exist, not a real profit. Can you guess when the first virus was created?
What is a computer virus?
A computer virus is software that could be attached to another file or program or be independent and has the goal to infect the target and start replicating. The software is executable, and when you start it, it will start to replicate and infect more devices or files.
The virus could expose your personal data, track you, slow down, or completely stop your device, and more.
It could be attached to an email, get activated upon clicking a link, seen a video or a photo, and more.
First computer virus – Creeper
The Creeper is the first-ever virus program for computers. Bob Thomas wrote it back in 1971 when working for BBN Technologies.
Aren’t you surprised how old computer viruses are already?!
Back in that era, the computers were mainframes – enormous room-sized computers with basic inputs and outputs. They were very rare and expensive, so not so many organizations had them.
So back to our story, the original Creeper was a program that just showed a message “I’m the creeper: catch me if you can”, moving from a mainframe computer to another through a pre-internet network called ARPANET.
Bob wanted to show that a program could be mobile and move to another computer.
A colleague of his, Ray Tomlinson, added the functionality to the first virus to copy itself, not simply jump to the next machine. Ray Tomlinson’s Creeper program is known as the first computer worm.
The first virus was more proof of concept and a game than a cyber-attack. It was not harming the computers that it infected. Maybe only annoying the users, with the annoying message “I’m the creeper: catch me if you can” jumping every now and then.
Apart from just playing around, Tomlinson wrote some very useful software for the TENEX OS. One was copying files from one device to another, and the second was for sending messages.
In the end, something like 15 computers were infected. There were not so many computers at the time, and their resources were very limited. The virus really crippled the machines, and a fix was needed.
It was Tomlinson’s fault, so he had to fix it.
One year later, he got the first antivirus program – the Reaper. It was designed to fight only the Creeper. The Reaper was traveling through the ARPANET, searching for copies of the Creeper and deleting them.
Modern viruses and protection
Now viruses exist on every OS, and they have many varieties. There are Trojans, worms, hijackers, overwrite viruses, web scripting viruses, and many more.
We need to try our best to protect our devices. Update regularly your OS and all your software. Don’t download shady applications nor click on untrusted links. Be careful with your login information.
Keep an antivirus always running.
There is no 100% secure scenario, but most of the viruses come to our devices thanks to us, so be careful with your actions.
So the first computer virus started as a fun experiment but ended up in a serious problem. It unlocked the imagination of many people. There was a way to use software for malicious purposes. Pandora’s box was open, and there was no turning back. Thank Tomlinson!