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history of computer viruses overview

The history of computer viruses are dated back to in 1980’s where viruses began to appear in computer systems. Computer virus is a computer program capable of damaging digital data. Like biological virus, it can replicate repeatedly without the knowledge of a user and hamper system setting.

Though the source of the first computer virus is arguable, it was in 1982 that the so called “Elk Cloner” virus made known to the public. Richard Skrenta, a high school student, was responsible for creating this malicious code. Apple DOS operating system was the first OS to be used for this purpose. This is because the creator of the virus used Apple II computer at that time. Elk Cloner was easily spread to other computers through floppy disks.

In 1986 a new computer virus called “Brain” was the next to become live. This boot sector virus was made by two brothers, Basit Farooq Alvi and Amjad Farooq Alvi, from Pakistan. As it was reported, they did not deliberately create the virus, rather it was made to protect illegal copy of their software.

Such kind situation is still happens in the present day, for example, during the election of new Kenyan Presidency, the suspected supporters created a malicious code that spreads through email and internet. Once it made into your system it continually annoy you to vote for Raila Odinga, one of the prospect candidates, by showing a photo of Odinga and message. Soon after that anti-virus program developers made a cure for it.

The history of computer viruses began with such kinds of malicious codes. After the introduction of these types of computer viruses, more viruses were released such as Cascade (first encrypted virus) from Germany, Lehigh from Lehigh University, Jerusalem from Hebrew university, Alameda… etc.

You can read more about types of computer viruses here.

Not only the numbers of malicious codes are increased, but also computer viruses become more sophisticated since then. And the transmission media also changed, in the earlier time viruses were spreading through removable medias such as floppy disk and CD only affecting few computers. But now the major medium is through the internet.

In 1980s, Timothy Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, developed the World Wide Web which opens for an era of information technology and Internet. As a result more computers are connected to each other both globally and locally. Internet becomes widely available.

On the other hand computer viruses managed to spread one computer to the other using these technologies. And it becomes more threat to the entire globe than the earlier time. Now computer virus can spread in a fraction of second from one continent to the other through internet and computer networks.

In 1995 WinWord Concept, the first macro language virus was created. In 1999 Melissa, the other macro virus hit e-mail servers around the world and crippled the system for a while which costs organizations thousands of dollars consequently.

In 2000, the “Iloveyou” also called “LoveBug” virus that was created in Philippines became the most devastating virus comparing to earlier virus attacks which spreads through email into more than 10 million computers in one day. The loss was more than 9 billion.

Currently, the most active viruses that circulate around are viruses that come with email as an attachment. You should be more careful when you receive an email attached with file that particularly has an extension of .exe, .scr, .zip and .pif regardless of from whom you receive it – a friend or unknown person.

You can read more about computer virus protection programs here.

As the history of computer viruses tell the destruction effect of viruses on digital data and information is increased both in number and complication.

To tackle this problem computer programmers developed programs called anti-virus software that can protect computer systems and data from virus attack. Anti-virus programs are capable of cleaning your computer from known viruses, Trojans, worms and other malicious codes and protect from new threats if it is updated regularly.

List of the popular computer virus protection programs

  • - Symantec’s Norton Anti-Virus
  • - Avast Anti-virus
  • – free version available
  • - Avira Anti-virus
  • – free version available
  • - Kaspersky Anti-virus
  • - AVG Anti-virus
  • – free version available
  • - McAfee Anti-virus
  • - F-secure Anti –virus
  • - Panda software


This is short overview of the history of computer viruses. If you want more information about computer virus, you can read more articles on this site and visit anti-virus developer’s sites listed above. They have good pages about recent threats and additional removal tools.

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