It is difficult to tell when the first computer virus came to exist. In 1959, the concept of a self-replicating program had found its first trial in a game played by a group of programmers at Bell Laboratories. The idea spread to other leading computer research facilities such as the artificial intelligence laboratory at MIT. Most of these games were played under controlled conditions on standalone mainframe computers. When networks became along, Experiments showed that a self-replicating program created in fun had the ability to propagate rapidly and to create great danger when released into a network of interconnected computers.

Because of the potential for abuse, programmers who knew about self-replicating programs avoided revealing details to the public. Ken Thompson, author of the UNIX, was the first to publish his talk about self-replicating programs. Others soon followed suit.

Probably the first true virus was demonstrated at a seminar on computer security in 1983. Fred Cohen introduced a virus program into a VAX system. In a controlled experiment, five attacks were performed to demonstrate that the virus could gain all system rights within 30 minutes. Cohen, using mathematics, laid the groundwork for formal study of computer viruses(Cohn 1994, pp.40-55).

In April 1980 all the IBM 4341 computers already delivered to customers abruptly stopped. Reportedly, a disgruntled IBM employee had placed a logic bomb in the master clock in manufacturing the unit.

In January 1986, two brothers running a computer shop in Pakistan designed a virus, the so-called Pakistani Brain. They inserted this into many copies of pirated software, which they then sold. The first infections were reported in the USA soon afterwards, and by the end of 1988 at least 20000 computers been infected worldwide. That same year the first PC-based Trojan was released in the form of the popular shareware program PC-Write.

The first file virus started to appear in 1987. Most concentrated on COM files. At this time other work was done to create the first EXE infector. This virus evolved into the Jerusalem virus.

MacMag, the first Macintosh virus and the Scores virus was the source of the first major Macintosh outbreak. The Internet Worm causes the first Internet crisis and down many computers in in1988.

The Trojan of 1989 is famous for holding data hostage. The Trojan was sent out under the guise of an AIDS information program. When run it encrypted the user’s hard drive and demanded payment for the decryption key.

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Vishnu vardhan Reddy Boda is Tech Blogger and Software Engineer.

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