Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Worms Businesses Security Apple

The Computer Virus Turns 25 in July 194

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thats-silver-right dept.
bl8n8r writes "In July of 1982, an infected Apple II propogated the first computer virus onto a 5-1/4" floppy. The virus, which did little more than annoy the user, Elk Cloner, was authored in Pittsburgh by a 15-year-old high school student, Rich Skrenta. The virus replicated by monitoring floppy disk activity and writing itself to the floppy when it was accessed. Skrenta describes the virus as "It was a practical joke combined with a hack. A wonderful hack." Remember, he was a 9th grader when he did this."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Computer Virus Turns 25 in July

Comments Filter:
  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:20AM (#19875963) Homepage Journal
    ...if he had patented the virus.
    • by vivaoporto (1064484) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:29AM (#19876053)
      And imagine how secure the computing world would be ... if Microsoft had a monopoly on virus creation.
      • by Creepy (93888)
        Heh - they practically do - the MS shakedown virus was more than effective - Windows infects almost all personal computers out there. I dubbed it shakedown as in Microsoft capturing most of its existing marketshare using exclusive discounts to companies if they only bundle Microsoft products, which is pretty much the same thing as extortion in my eyes.
        • by Torvaun (1040898)
          Wrong. Extortion would be "Either you bundle Microsoft, and only Microsoft, or Windows will crash constantly on Dell Computers." Discounts for being exclusive is a legitimate, if somewhat slimy, business tactic.
          • by Nurseman (161297)
            "Wrong. Extortion would be "Either you bundle Microsoft, and only Microsoft, or Windows will crash constantly on Dell Computers."


            Sort of like to old story about "Windows is not done until 1-2-3- will not run"?

            • by Torvaun (1040898)
              No, unless they were trying to get 1-2-3 to pay for the privilege of running on Windows. Otherwise, it's just anticompetitive behavior.
            • by drsmithy (35869)

              Sort of like to old story about "Windows is not done until 1-2-3- will not run"?

              The "old story" is "DOS ain't done 'til Lotus won't run" (people using "Windows" in the phrase are just betraying their youth and the fact they're working with hearsay). Further, the very idea of an OS vendor sabotaging probably the single most important application on their platform - and hence about the only reason many of their customers were their customers in the first place - is so ludicrous that no sane person would ev

    • Imagine his wealth...if he had patented the virus.

      His patent would have been challenged due to prior art. (One I know about is John Walker's "Pervading Animal" in 1975, although there are claims of earlier stuff.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jansingal (1098809)
      Why does this article not mention Fred Cohen, who found the first virus?
  • Script kiddie age? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:23AM (#19875989)
    Is there any information on the average age of people who have written the major viruses of the last couple decades? Has this age gone down over time?
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I suspect it hasn't gone down, specifically because the script kiddies aren't the ones writing the major viruses.
      • by omeomi (675045)
        Still, impressive that a 9th grader figured out how to write the first virus. I'm 28, have a CS degree, and have no idea how to write a virus. Mostly because I've never bothered to learn, I suppose...
        • by mgblst (80109)
          I'm 28, have a CS degree,
           
          Wow, maybe you consider that the ultimate laudation. but it is really something embarrassing to be bragging about. Clearly you have absolutely no imagination if you can't figure out how to write a virus, it is one of the more simple programs you could write. Look at the fact early viruses were often detected by the number of BYTES they addes to an exe or com file.
          • by omeomi (675045)
            Clearly you have absolutely no imagination if you can't figure out how to write a virus, it is one of the more simple programs you could write.

            I think I made it reasonably clear that I have no interest in writing a virus, and thus, have not spent any time whatsoever trying to figure out how to do it. Why would I want to write a virus?
    • by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:59AM (#19876367)
      Of the "ten most destructive PC viruses of all time [techweb.com]":

      CIH, by Chen Ing Hau, who "attended a university" at the time of release ~1998.
      Melissa virus, by David L. Smith, age 31 in 1999
      ILOVEYOU, by university student for thesis, 2000
      Code Red, author unknown?
      SQL Slammer, 2003, by a 21-22 year old
      Blaster, 2003, variant by an 18 year old
      Sobig, possibly by 30 year old Ruslan Ibragimov?
      Bagle, author unknown?
      MyDoom, unknown
      Sasser, by 17 year old

      Not much to go on.
    • by fermion (181285) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:19AM (#19876593) Homepage Journal
      I suppose I will be pedantic about this as I don't think we should minimize the creativity. I think of script kiddies as someone who takes existing tool, say some published code and MS Visual studio, and repackages it. They, in fact, just use scripts.

      What this kid did was go into the the Apple internals and figure out how to do something himself. In hindsight it was not such a great feat, but is was a feat that was at least somewhat novel.

      OTOH, kids have nothing but time on their hands and if the parents and schools don't keep them busy, then they find other ways to stay busy. The more cleaver one can produce some real havoc. What impresses me is the high school kid that does something creative and interesting with his or her free time, instead of being randomly malicious. The really good ones will go out and start applying their skills to the betterment of humanity, but really any bright kid that chooses a path that is not gratuitously destructive is a win in my opinion.

      • by StikyPad (445176)
        It may be impressive to build a house by hand, but it's much more productive to use existing tools and machinery. The argument about skill is largely academic, since the end product is what counts. In the case of malware creators, it doesn't really matter whether they used Visual Basic, ASM, or punched in 1s and 0s -- shit is shit.
  • by R2.0 (532027) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:23AM (#19875991)
    I was at Lehigh when this was released. One of the first self propagating viruses, with a time delay to allow for greater infection, that was actually destructive. It was sort of a non-event to the users there; imagine my surprise when I looked it up years later and it figures prominently in virus history.
    • by rudegeek (966948) <junkyardNO@SPAMbronikowski.com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:36AM (#19876123) Homepage

      One of the first self propagating viruses

      Still, sounds like something very harmless. You should see Amiga-related (not AmigaOS related as much of the population used Amiga as game console) viruses, like Saddam. I think orginal Saddam could be proud this piece of horrible software.

      Then, with release of AmigaOS 2.04, we had new kind of viruses. They would spread like... er... viruses? They patched all systems calls dealing with resources loading and all your fonts, device drivers, libraries, executables was infected. I still remember Happy New Year 1996 -- it took me two days with no sleep to clean my disk. Anti-virus software that could deal with it was designed by someone who hated people. First, you passed what it should scan. Then, when process started, at every instance of virus it would start FROM THE TOP. And it would say "Oh, you have an virus. It was deleted. Continue?" You HAD to click it to start again. My Libs: directory had over 6500 shared libraries. All infected.

      (Yes, I realize it was done to prevent from recursive infection. This should not be the case since all system vectors was checked all the time by the very same program.)

      I think this guy was hired to do 'Allow or Cancel' component. :-)

  • by TheBearBear (1103771) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:25AM (#19876011)
    I take a snapshot of my sister's desktop, then open it in photoshop and clone all sorts of icon and littering it all over like a mess, then save the file and use it as a desktop background. She comes over to me screaming that her desktop is a mess and she couldn't find anything, and she can't open an icon when she clicks on it, much less highlight it! AHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    Not a virus, just a prank but still :D
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:34AM (#19876111)
      Shouldn't it be your nap time?
    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      I've been doing that for the past 10 years. I had a roommate in college who almost completely flipped out when I did it to him.

      My personal preference is take the screen shot, flip it, then set that as the background. WinXP makes things easy because you can just right click and uncheck "show icons". I do it once or twice a year at work. Doesn't work so well anymore now that all PCs will lock themselves after 10 minutes of inactivity.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        My personal preference is take the screen shot, flip it, then set that as the background. WinXP makes things easy because you can just right click and uncheck "show icons". I do it once or twice a year at work. Doesn't work so well anymore now that all PCs will lock themselves after 10 minutes of inactivity.

        The truly evil among us keep *SOME* of the icons on the desktop, and hide the rest away in another folder. Thus, some of the icons work, while the rest are just images. Truly infuriating!

        One of the nice

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:51AM (#19876261) Homepage
      nope a better one is to put a photo screensaver on a It professionals machine, then have it display only 1 image a BSOD.

      The guy was one of the types that always reminded you of his certifications. yet it took us telling him it was a screensaver to stop him from tearing apart his PC.

      It was funnier than hell, he stopped chasing us with sharp objects about 4 days later.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:51AM (#19876979)
      I had a boss named "Dave" once. I replaced his Windows sound events with snips from 2001: a space oddessey. For instance "I'm sorry, I can't do that, Dave".

      I miss that job!
    • Yeah, I did that to my roommate in college after he pissed me off. I suppose it was less malicious than a friend who ran a magnet over all of his roommate's ZIP disks.
    • by harrkev (623093)

      I take a snapshot of my sister's desktop, then open it in photoshop and clone all sorts of icon and littering it all over like a mess, then save the file and use it as a desktop background.
      That is cute, but it is time to graduate into the world of REAL hacking. Try hacking the computer at 127.0.0.1. I hear that the guy who runs that system knows nothing about security. Break in, download all the warez you want, and wipe his hard drive just to teach him a lesson.
    • Ah, the joy of being young and destructive. Reminds me of something I did when I was younger...

      I was in my middle school computer lab, bored and I guess pissed off about something. Anyway, the lab machines were these Mac SE/30's, old even for the time. On the hard drive there were eight folders. So in a bid to freak out the next person to use the computer, I placed all of these into one folder. Then I made eight new folders, and renamed them with the names of the eight original folders. Then I placed

  • by vigmeister (1112659) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:25AM (#19876019)
    is that the viruses for it are traditionally written by 9th graders who use the B: drive...
  • by friedman101 (618627) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:42AM (#19876173)
    Finally, you're old enough to rent a car [foxnews.com].
  • by My name is Bucket (1020933) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:44AM (#19876189)
    Mac OS has never had a virus problem.
  • Every 50th booting you'd get this (Note "-" is represents a ). Elk Cloner: The program with a personality- It will get on all your disks - It will infiltrate your chips- Yes it's Cloner!- It will stick to you like glue- It will modify RAM too- Send in the Cloner!- Now if I had gotten that when I was a little kid on my little Apple 2, I'd cry.
  • by CPE1704TKS (995414) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:45AM (#19876193)
    Anyone remember that one? It was such a pain in the ass at the time, but it didn't go around and delete files, etc. And we got it from pirating program after program. Solution? Install a pirated version of the first anti-virus programs. I'm so old that I can't remember what exactly it was... It might actually have been Norton.
    • McAfee (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JeanBaptiste (537955)
      Probably was McAfee. Which was a fantastic scanner at the time. Oh how things have changed since then. Sad to see both McAfee and Norton/Symantec turn into useless piles of garbage considering what they once were...
      • by Ilgaz (86384) *

        Probably was McAfee. Which was a fantastic scanner at the time. Oh how things have changed since then. Sad to see both McAfee and Norton/Symantec turn into useless piles of garbage considering what they once were...

        MCafee was never fantastic, it was Virex which was fantastic and they acquired it and raped it just like their Symantec buddies did to Peter Norton ages code of Norton Utilities.

        About the rate of plain vandalism? I tried the latest Virex (Mcafee) trial on a system with 4 PPC970MP cores and 2,5 GB of RAM: System became barely usable. I remember my brothers PowerBook Duo 270c (68030 with 24mb ram) working happily with the original Virex running 24/7.

        The point is: Both companies never did anything right. They

    • by mjpaci (33725)
      Wasn't 'Disinfectant' the first real anti-virus program for the Mac? It was written by a prof at Northwestern, I think.
    • Might be talking about stoned monkey B we had it going around the school lab. We used f-prot for dos to get rid of it but every now and then someone would use a disk that had it and it would be back on every computer.
    • Anyone remember that one? It was such a pain in the ass at the time, but it didn't go around and delete files, etc. And we got it from pirating program after program. Solution? Install a pirated version of the first anti-virus programs. I'm so old that I can't remember what exactly it was... It might actually have been Norton.

      It was most likely McAfee (back when it was shareware freely distributed via the BBS community).

      I don't believe Norton got into the anti-virus market until much later (though at that time every geek worthy of the name *did* have a copy of Norton Utilities, most likely pirated).

      I *liked* that virus. I was studying computers at the local community college, and printed out the assembly code for "stoned" to study. The top programmer at the electronics company I worked for spotted me reading the code, sat dow

    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Recently I was attempting to recover some files. old files. These were Word (4.0?) documents off a System 6 HFS formatted SCSI 90mb Bernoulli. It seems this backup disk from WAAAY back in the day was infected with a virus named nVIR -anyone remember that? To get the files I Had the disk plugged into a G3 upgraded Clone box (Supermac) running OS X 10.2 then networked to my G5 on 10.4 I just copied the whole 90mb to a folder and started to tinker. I got the files I needed but then started looking
  • Not the oldest. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ReallyEvilCanine (991886) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:45AM (#19876195) Homepage
    I had an Atari 800 back in 1979. In 1980 I took a small piece of malware someone else wrote and turned it into a virus which would remain memory-resident and self-replicate. After formatting any diskette the victim inserted into the drive, it wrote a hidden file to infect any machine the disk was then used on. This was a payback for the people who were getting pirated software free and then turning around to sell it. I'm pretty sure I still have the source code for it somewhere.

    I'm not claiming mine was the oldest because I'm sure someone did something similar on the old heavy iron even earlier than my little "payload" as we called then it.

    • by Cassini2 (956052)

      My understanding was that the first computer viruses were penned at Bell Labs in a series of experiments called the "Core Wars". The goal was to eliminate as many enemy tasks as possible while keeping your tasks running. Byte has an article on the subject in the 1980's. Of course, at the time, disk media were in limited supply. This made spreading away from the test mainframe next to impossible.

      Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Core_War [wikipedia.org]

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:48AM (#19876233)
    That was the first virus I remember, but its just 19 years old. It paralyzed the internet when it was released. But then the Net just had a few thousand nodes, most of them in the university. The worm was supposed to count nodes by sending a copy of itself to every entry in the host table, but the author forget to account for duplicates and circularities. So it just replicated until it filled the process spaces and internet bandwidth.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      but the author forget to account for duplicates and circularities

      Actually the story is a bit more interesting than this. The author did think about this, and even programmed the worm to ask a target system whether it was already infected, and if it was then it would decline to infect it again.

      The flaw came in a deliberate modification of this strategy. Following this idea completely would make the worm easy to defeat, since you could just run a program that listened for the query and answered "yes" to kee

  • Um no. it wasn't (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:56AM (#19876317) Homepage
    1981 - Apple Viruses 1, 2, and 3 are some of the first viruses "in the wild," or in the public domain. Found on the Apple II operating system, the viruses spread through Texas A&M via pirated computer games.
    • 1981 - Apple Viruses 1, 2, and 3 are some of the first viruses "in the wild," or in the public domain. Found on the Apple II operating system, the viruses spread through Texas A&M via pirated computer games.


      God, you must be old if you can recall a day when Apple had games...

      (j/k, sorta. Quake3 on mac w/Logitec mouse at home, pc at work)
  • Bullshit! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:57AM (#19876335)
    I had sex with a PDP-11 in 1973 and it gave me chlamydia. That predates this asshat by almost a decade. Where's my trophy?!
  • by Ollabelle (980205)
    but I remember a very old Scientific American article (60's maybe?) about program wars in which two programs would simultaneously reside in memory and each would seek out the other to destroy it, usually by inflicting a fatal erasure of a vital part from the memory stack. The article described the programs' different strategies of seek-and-destroy while simultaneously moving itself around to avoid destruction. Pretty primitive, but great fun.
    • I didn't read Scientific American in the 60's, but I do remember an article about "Core Wars", which dates back to 1984. Page images of the article can now be found at http://www.corewars.org/sciam/ [corewars.org]. There are actually Core Wars leagues online still.
  • Late 90's/Early '00s. Had a friend working the computer lab when full shutdown occurred and EVERY screen crashes and goes blank (I THINK it was due to Melissa)...near finals, so everyone was working on their final projects and papers in the labs. 50+people saying "Oh, S---" at the same time. Most profs were nice and had some sympathy.
  • I had a friend back in the early 90s who one day found that his Amiga 500 wouldn't load some game. Then he proceeded to warm boot and test ALL his other floppy disks to see if they had the same problem. That virus destroyed 50 disks worth of pirated games in less than an hour.
  • by Asmodai (13932) on Monday July 16, 2007 @12:47PM (#19877681) Homepage
    Sorry, but Creeper beat that Apple II virus by about 10 years.

    http://www.viruslist.com/en/viruses/encyclopedia?c hapter=153310937 [viruslist.com]

    Furthermore http://www.viruslist.com/en/viruses/encyclopedia?c hapter=153310910 [viruslist.com] states that such ideas and programs already started in the 40s and 50s.
  • Wow, the Virus could be Blogging's father [slashdot.org]. That is if he's not reading slashdot - in this case older brother is the best he can be (not old enough to be even Vlogging's dad).
  • by joshuac (53492) * on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:25PM (#19878301) Journal
    Not enough time right now to go into depth, but I sorting through a collection of 5.25" Apple images, I saw this message popup on one of the emulators "bootup". Had no idea what it was and didn't bother looking too far in depth into it. This was back in 2006, when I was organizing my collection of stuff I had written as a kid, random public domain disks I had copies, of, random things I had made copies of as a kid from my gradeschool computer lab, etc...in the process, plenty of "catalog" commands ran (this is how it spreads, he has the 6502 source http://www.skrenta.com/cloner/clone-src.txt [skrenta.com] on his website and a few more items about it there), plenty of disks "swapped" out of virtual floppy drives, so I'm sure the infection is well spread.

    Maybe I'll keep it around as a living pet in my emulator :)
  • by Evil W1zard (832703) on Monday July 16, 2007 @02:45PM (#19879393) Journal
    According to other reporting this is not actually the first virus. The first virus really should be the Creeper virus that infected DARPANET systems back in the early 70's. According to Viruslist, the virus was written for the Tenex operating system and was capable of independently gaining access through a modem and copying itself to a remote system. Once infected, the system would display the following message: "I'M THE CREEPER: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN."

    The Reaper was written to replicate and find Creeper and delete it. Then came Rabbit in 1974 which caused systems to crash because it screwed system performance due to replicating so fast (wonder why it was called Rabbit.....)
  • Happy birthday to you,
    Happy birthday to you,
    Happy birthday to viruses,
    Hap...

    Fatal Error: HappyBirthday.exe has been corrupted. Please contact your system administrator.
    [OK]

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.

Working...