Computer viruses are known to anyone who has a computer these days. Back in the 80s, when computers just started becoming popular in homes and businesses due to the IBM PC in ’82 and the Apple Macintosh in ’84, computer viruses first started to become more widespread. Computer viruses worked very similarly to biological viruses in that their purpose was to infect as many programs and computers as possible. Most had an “end-game” which would be triggered by a date, the number of computers they infected, or an action taken on the computer by the user. The “end-game” would usually involve the virus erasing all of the user’s data.

When Did it Start?

Long before the first virus was ever created, in 1949, John Von Neumann, a mathematician, talked about the concept of programs which could self-replicate and in the 1960s a game called Core Wars was developed by a group of programmers. Core Wars would reproduce itself every time it was played and flood the other player’s computer memory. After that, Reeper was created, which destroyed Core War copies, making it the first antivirus program.

Timeline of Famous Viruses

1986: Brain Virus

The Brain Virus was malicious code developed by two Pakistani brothers. It spread via floppy disks and infected the boot sectors of disks, remaining undetected while occupying unused space thus making all of the information on the disk inaccessible. An antivirus to detect and remove this virus was developed two years later, in 1988.

1987: Lehigh Virus

Discovered in the Lehigh University in the US, this virus was a file infector that attacked executable files and took control when the user opened the files. Around this time, the Jerusalem Virus also appeared, another famous file infector.

1988: Cascade Virus

Originating in Germany, this was the first encrypted virus, adding code that couldn’t be removed.

1999: Melissa Virus

This was an email virus which spread by forwarding itself to 50 people in the user’s address book.

2000: ILOVEYOU Virus

Created in the Philippines, the ILOVEYOU virus did a lot of damage worldwide by deleting files and emailing the creator users’ personal account logins. The total damage amounted to 5.5 billion USD.

2001: Core Red 1 and Code Red 2

Causing 2 billion USD in damage, these two worms infected over 700,000 computers and were very harmful. The worms worked by replicating themselves and replacing web pages in servers with a page that had the message “Hacked by Chinese”. This particular threat even launched an attack on the White House website, forcing them to change their IP address to circumvent the attacks.

2007: Storm

This virus tricked users into loading it on their PCs and infected millions of computers around the world. These days, antivirus programs know how to detect and block it.

How to Protect Yourself

Viruses continue to pop up every day, ranging from worms and trojans, to phishing attacks and email viruses. Users need to take precautions to avoid damage to their computers and files and to be safe from identity theft and credit card fraud. To summarize it all for you, here is what you should do: always keep your operating system and browsers updated, and/or a security suite, read reviews about antivirus software and install a strong and effective Anti-virus software giving your devices the best protection.

Laurie Dunn
Laurie can be called a highly creative person, successfully juggling her work and family time. As a career-mother busily analyzing data and her children’s grades, Laurie’s best achievement is managing a team of specialists. Laurie is our “It” girl when it comes to computer safe keeping.
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  • Deborah Wilson

    I am no computer/technology fan but did manage to find interest in this article, it was very interesting to read about the evolution of all viruses and the fact of it not being a long and tiring to read made it even better!

    • Laurie Dunn

      Thank you for this feedback, Deborah. We are publishing new articles on a regular basis so there is more to come. I hope that we also helped you in choosing the best antivirus software which fits your needs.