The History of Computer Viruses

Since the dawn of computing, there has always been programs people developed that had the ability to self-replicate. In the beginning, this seemed like amazing modern programs that were wise beyond their years. These programs have since developed into Viruses and the Malware that we know today. Which are not so amazing… However, they are wise, which is the scary part. Let us look at the history of how modern malware came to be. Understanding the root and origins can help us understand how these programs work and how we can defend against them.

1949- YES! As Early as 1949 we see some of the first Self Replicating programs that were established.

1966- John von Neumann, known to be the “Father of Cybernetics” wrote an article on the “Theory of Self- Reproducing Automata”.  Self-Reproducing Automata sounds much more interesting than “Virus”

1971- A self-replicating program called “The Creeper” was developed and accessed the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network and copied to a remote host system. The funny part is that it would display a message that said, “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!”. Soon after another program called, “The Reaper” was developed to go in and delete the harmful “Creeper”.

1974- An infectious program called the “Wabbit” was created, its goal was to make multiple copies of itself on a computer and clog up the system so the computer performance would be compromised.

The 80’s – This was the decade where the term “Virus” was first coined. We also began to see these programs turn more malicious. The Lehigh virus in 1987 was programmed to infect files at Yale University. A virus discovered in the city of Jerusalem was developed to destroy all file in an infected computer on any Friday the 13th.

The 90’s – At the start of the 90’s Symantec launched one of the first antivirus programs called Antivirus to help fight against the infectious programs. In 1996 a macro virus named Laroux was made to infect Microsoft Excel Documents. in 1999 The Happy 99 virus spread and attached itself to emails with the message “Happy New Year”

00’s-10’s – Were the target of more elaborate viruses which included the ILOVEYOU virus capable of deleting files. The Anna Kournikova virus that spread through emails and promised pictures of the tennis player, but instead hid a malicious virus. The Koobface, which targeted social media Users.

While viruses began harmless and with the intention to further society into understanding how programming works, this information was then used for evil and shadowed the excitement of new technology with threats to personal security. Luckily the good always outweighs the bad and with many steps to prevent, counteract, and fight back against cybercrimes, the world can rest easy.


Contact ECMSI for any questions you may have about your network or if you think you fell victim to a virus or cyber attack.