The Short History and Evolution of Viruses

Virus Detected Warning MessageModern systems have come a long way since the very first virus exposed the potential weaknesses of the new digital age. These days, cyberspace is a war zone between hackers trying to get information, and the sentries trying to protect sensitive data. The complexity of some of these battles makes some professionals in the field reminisce on the good old days when things were much simpler.

Because of its relatively young history, not many people bother with taking a deeper look at the history of the IT industry, but modern IT support services such as Fitzrovia IT are making efforts to make programmers coming into the industry realize the importance of their history, specifically the evolution of viruses.

The First Brain

Pakistani brothers Amjad Farooq Alvi and Basit Farooq Alvi wrote the first ever virus on record known as “Brain”. Brain spread through the world via a floppy disk and was discovered in 1986,but it was never meant to be destructive, which was why the Alvi brothers wrote their names and contact information with the code. Today, the brothers run the Internet service provider Brain Telecommunication Ltd.

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Similar viruses emerged in subsequent years with varying low threat levels; these early programs included Stoned (1987), Form (1990), Michaelangelo (1991), and VCL (1992). After 1994, viruses began to become more sophisticated, performing more complex commands such self-replication and concealment. These programs were moderate threats because they spread faster, and were harder to detect.

Steady Evolution

The first example of these moderate programs was the Monkey (1994) that was a self-concealing program, followed by the Concept (1995), which was the first virus that infected Microsoft Word files. The damage Concept dealt was minimal, though it was a sneak peek at what viruses could do. Melissa and Happy99 were both discovered in 1999, but the latter took most of the spotlight, as it was the first virus to spread via email.

Danger Realized

In the year 2000, the world braced for the end of computers via the mythical Y2K virus, but it never came. What did happen was the introduction of the Love Letter virus, which was one of the biggest virus outbreaks of all time. Originating from the Philippines, it spread via e-mail attachment and overwrote crucial files of the PCs it infected.

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The programcausedUS$5.5-8.7 billion in damages worldwide, and cost US$15 billion to remove. The virus also forced the Pentagon, the CIA, the British Parliament, and several international companies to shut down their mail systems to protect themselves.

Virus defense systems greatly improved after the Love Letter disaster with only the Storm Worm in 2007 threatening even greater damage. The war for data protection is still going on with more advancement made on both fronts every day. Every company needs to put up their shield, or else get caught in the crossfire.