History of Malware

When it comes to malware, history tends to get a bit fuzzy. Different web sites make different claims as to which piece of code is considered the first virus based on any number of variables such as replication, operating system and potential for damage.


So instead of debating as to what constitutes malware or who started what, we are going to take a look at some of the software over the years that made malware what it is today.


1971 – Creeper Worm


The Creeper worm was actually an experiment written by Bob Thomas as a self-replicating program that ran through computers using the TENEX operating system. It was followed up by another program, Reaper, that was created to delete the Creeper worm. Neither programs were considered to be destructive to the computers they ran on.


1974 – The Wabbit


This piece of code would make multiple copies of itself on the infected computer until there were so many that it would crash the computer. It was named Wabbit for the rapid pace at which it multiplied.


1975 – ANIMAL


This program is considered a fore runner in the Trojan family of malware as it disguised itself as a game. While the player interacted with the program, it was actually copying a program called PERVADE, as well as the code for ANIMAL, to every directory that was accessible to the user.


1981 – Elk Cloner


Flashback was certainly not the first piece of malware to plague Apple users. Long before it struck, there was Elk Cloner. Attacking the Apple II computer, it was considered to be the first large scale malicious computer virus outbreak in history.


1984 – Backdoor Proof of Concept


Ken Thompson shows in his paper, Reflections on Trusting Trust, how a backdoor can be inserted into the login command of the Unix operating system.


1986 – Pakistani Flu


The first boot-sector virus, the Pakistani Flu, is released. Also known as Brain, it became the first IBM PC virus and is considered by some to be the first virus in existence. Written originally as a way to protect medical software from piracy, the code actually infected a large number of computers. The creators of the medical software, and the virus, run an ISP in Pakistan called Brain NET.


1988 – The Morris Worm


While worms had been seen the Morris Worm can be credited as the first worm to be seen in the wild. It is also important to note that this also demonstrated one of the first pieces of malware to exploit a buffer overrun vulnerability.


1992 – Michelangelo


On March 6th, any computer running this virus was supposed to have all of their information wiped clean. Remember the hysteria surrounding this one?


1995 – Concept


Considered to be the first Macro virus, this code hid itself in Word Documents.


1999 – Melissa


Named for a stripper in Miami, the Melissa virus targeted Microsoft Word and Outlook. As this virus propagated through email systems, it overloaded servers and slowed network traffic for anyone who was infected with it.




Also known as the Love Bug worm, this malware written in VBScript infected millions of computers within a few hours of its release.


2001 – Code Red, Nimda, Klez and Anna Kournikova


Code Red attacked Microsoft IIS, Nimda followed and attacked backdoors left by Code Red II, Klez went after vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Outlook and the Anna Kournikova virus attacked the Outlook address book emailing itself to all the contacts in a victims contact list.


2003 – SQL Slammer, Blaster, Welchia, Sobig, Sober, Agobot, Bolgimo and many others


This year was tough on those tasked with protecting networks and computers. These malicious programs attacked Microsoft products such as SQL Server, Windows and mail services.


2004 – Bagle, MyDoom, Netsky, Sasser and Vundo


The first three mentioned were worms that brought networks to their knees as they rapidly spread from computer to computer. Sasser actually rid infected computers of the MyDoom and Bagle worms but created problems of its own for victims.


Vundo was actually a Trojan that caused advertising pop-ups and rogue antispyware alerts.


2005 – Samy


Samy was considered to be the fasted spreading virus known to date. This was in part to its ability to propagate over MySpace.


2006 – OSX/Leap


The first malware written to attack the Mac OSX is found.


2007 – Zeus, Storm Worm


One of the most infamous keystroke loggers, Zeus was used to steal banking information from the people whose computers were infected by this malware while the Storm Worm created one of the largest botnets in history.


2008 – Ruckstock and Koobface


Ruckstock was used to create one of the largest spam botnets in history. It was so damaging that when it was brought offline there was a noticeable decline in the amount of spam being sent worldwide. Koobface made a name for itself as one of the earliest pieces of malware to infect facebook users.


2009 – Conifker


More malware that was used to create zombie computers, Confiker invaded millions of computers running Windows XP.


2010 – Stuxnet and here you have


Later found to have been created by the US and Israeli governments, Stuxnet was created to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. Here you have was a simple Trojan that was sent via spam to its victims.


2011 – Anti-Spyware 2011


One of the most prolific scareware programs to be released into the wild this malware disabled the security processes of common anti-malware programs and blocked Internet access making it difficult for victims to remove it without buying the bogus removal tool.


2012 – Flashback and Flame


Flashback became known as the malware that made Apple users cringe. No longer able to say Macs were impervious to malware, this program infected over 100,000 Macs each week.


Flame was used for targeted cyber espionage attacking computers primarily located in Iran, Israel, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.


2013 – ???

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