History of Comuter Viruses

The impact that computer viruses provide to this society is currently huge because computer is a part of our lives. We depend on computer so much. Then, how did the computer viruses get popular and infamous? It is safe to say that viruses could not have been invented unless the access to Internet (World Wide Web) has got easy and popular for the people. Here is the brief history of Computer Viruses.

According to Howard Rheingold, in 1980s, the use of Internet or network was limited only for academics and education as well as the government, military and scientists. [1]

"Although the first computer virus dates back to 1986, viruses did not receive national attention until two years later." [2]

November 2nd, 1988: Internet Worm
Robert T. Morris, Jr., the first person charged with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984, [3] released the infamous "Internet Worm." This worm crashed over 6,000 UNIX computers online including machines at NASA, some major universities, and a number of military bases, which made the security of a computer network a big issue and changed the public perception of computer threats. "While the worm did not contain any code to change data or otherwise corrupt the systems it invaded, its self-replication flooded many networks with an overload of traffic." [2]

1989: The Dark Avenger Virus/ The Frodo Virus
The Dark Avenger virus was a "'fast-infector,' possessing the ability to infect new files while anti-virus software was scanning a computer's hard drive.
"The Frodo virus…was the first virus to exhibit full stealth capabilities so that it could hid from detection utilities of the time." [2]

March, 1991: VCS v 1.0
"This stood for Virus Construction Set version 1.0, and the software allowed users to craft their own unique viruses from a simple user interface…. VCS paved the way for other more powerful virus creation kits to make their way to the underground Internet scene." [2]

March, 1992: Michelangelo Virus
"Anti-virus groups determined that this virus was scheduled to awaken on March 6th, the birthday of the famous artist, and destroy all data on any infected machine…. Perhaps Michelangelo's greatest impact was the mass media attention it received, encouraging virus authors to continue their malicious endeavors in the hopes of making the front page of Wired and other computer publications." [2]

1995: Introduction of Macro Viruses
The first macro virus, which targets particular applications, was named "Concept." "Rather than target the Microsoft Windows platform or the Mac Operating System, Concept attacked the Microsoft Word platform by exploiting the power of WordBASIC, a special programming language written just for Microsoft Word." [2]

  1. Javascript viruses → attack users with insecure web browsers
  2. Happy99, Melissa → email-based virus which caused widespread damage to corporations and individuals
  3. LoveLetter, Anna Kournikova virus → psychological computer viruses, playing on people's weaknesses and desires to launch the replication event


  1. http://www.vcsun.org/%7Ebattias/class/454/txt/rhein.html
  2. http://www-cse.stanford.edu/classes/cs201/projects-00-01/viruses/social.html
  3. http://www-cse.stanford.edu/classes/cs201/projects-00-01/viruses/legal.html
  4. http://www.vcsun.org/~battias/class/454/