Friday, 13 Feb, 2009 Technology

Computer Viruses and Worms Throughout History


The history of computer virus goes back to the middle of 20th century.

Back in the days there were no anti-viruses, and nothing could help tackle malware. But today we have lots of powerful anti-virus programs able to deal with the problem. For instance you may consider installing an effective anti-virus software like the Antivirus and Security All-in-One-Suite that can clean your computer form any computer viruses and stop hacker attacks.

- In 1945 Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper found a moth that was stuck between relays in Navy computer. She called the trapped moth a "bug" which is a term that has been used since 19th century, referring to problems related to electrical devices. The procedure of fixing the problem with the computer was called "debugging", a term coined by the same admiral.

- Four years later, a researcher from Hungary, named John von Newman developed a theory of self-replicating programs. He was the one to come up with a theoretical base for computers that store information in their "memory".

- In 1960 the largest provider of telephone services, AT&T, presented the first commercial modem, which the company dubbed Dataphone. Three years later American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is created. This language allowed computers developed by different companies to exchange information.

- In 1969 experts at AT&T's Bell Laboratories created the UNIX operating system, which was world's first multi-tasking OS. In the same year Advanced Research Projects Agency introduced ARPANET, one of the first networks. The precursor of Internet was used by different government research teams and universities. The commercial version of ARPANET, called Telenet, was introduced in 1974.

- In 1979 specialists at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center managed to develop a computer "worm" - a small software program that searched the network for idle processors. The worm was created to improve computer use but back then no one knew that it would be the forerunner of modern worms, which are, in fact, computer viruses that users download without knowing it and destroy or alter information on computers.

- Fred Cohen, who in 1983 was a doctoral candidate at University of Southern California, for the first time defined the term "computer virus". He stated that a computer virus is a program that has a destructive nature and is able to "affect other computer programs by modifying them in such a way as to include a (possibly evolved) copy of itself." Somewhat later the developers of anti-virus programs capitalized on his study on computer virus defense methods.

- "The Brain" was one of the fist computer viruses. It was developed by programmers from Pakistan in 1986.

- Two years later Robert Morris, a 23-year-old programmer, developed and launched a worm that penetrated ARPANET computers. His program was able to immobilize about 6,000 computers by flooding the memory banks of computers in the network with duplicates of itself.

- In 1991 Symantec presents the Norton Anti-Virus software.

- In 1995 the software giant Microsoft released its operating system Windows 95. Companies developing anti-virus programs worried that Windows OS will be resistant to computer viruses. The same year saw the appearance of advanced "macro" viruses that had the possibility to corrupt the system.

- In 1998 two teenagers from California managed to take control of over 500 computers systems from the military, government and private sector. The cyber attack was dubbed "Solar Sunrise".

- A year later the notorious computer virus, known as "Melissa", shows a record speed in infecting thousands of computers. The damage caused by this computer virus was estimated at $80 million. It also led to an increase in demand for anti-virus software. When downloaded, the computer virus started a program that launches copies of itself to the first 50 names from the list in the Outlook e-mail address book of the recipient of the virus.

- In 2000 such giants as Yahoo, eBay, Amazon and Datek along with a number of other Web sites were knocked offline for several hours following a chain of "distributed denial-of-service attacks." It was later found that the DDOS attacks, which put out of action a target system simply by flooding traffic from hundreds of PC at the same time, were carried out when hackers infiltrated powerful computers at the University of California.

- A year later, President Bush appointed Richard Clarke as the first cybersecurity chief in the United States. In 2002 the 33-year-old developer of Melissa computer virus, David L. Smith, was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison. In the same year a denial-of-service attack strikes all 13 of the "root" servers that supply the primary roadmap for nearly all Internet communications. The attack raised serious concerns regarding the security of the Internet infrastructure.

- At the beginning of 2003, in about 3 hours, the "Slammer" worm was able to infect hundreds of thousands of computers. It proved to be the fastest spreading worn, causing chaos on businesses around the globe, knocking cash machines offline as well as delaying airline flights.

- In 2009 9 million computers running on Windows operating system were hit with the new "downadup" worm, dubbed "Conficker" and "Kido". The worm had the ability to infect USB sticks and corporate laptops. The malware spread via the Internet and the main tools that helped the worm spread were unpatched corporate networks and USB memory sticks that were attacked to infected computers. First discovered last October, downadup loads itself on to a computer by exploiting a weakness in Windows servers. Once it has infected a machine, the software also tries to connect to up to 250 different domains with random names every day.

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