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40th Anniversary of the Computer Virus 60

Orome1 writes "This year marks the 40th anniversary of Creeper, the world's first computer virus. From Creeper to Stuxnet, the last four decades saw the number of malware instances boom from 1,300 in 1990, to 50,000 in 2000, to over 200 million in 2010. Besides sheer quantity, viruses, which were originally used as academic proofs of concept, quickly turned into geek pranks, then evolved into cybercriminal tools. By 2005, the virus scene had been monetized, and virtually all viruses were developed with the sole purpose of making money via more or less complex business models."
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40th Anniversary of the Computer Virus

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  • That explains the party balloons and cake I delivered to Symantec.
    • You wanna know what the sad part is? Most of the bugs today are caused by nothing but sheer mind numbing stupid. I mean when you actually watch some of these people, blinding pounding the next key like a monkey trying to get a banana, not even bothering to slow down even when there is check boxes, just next next next...and WHAM! They've got 40 toolbars and a bunch of spyware and who knows what else!

      Now if someone gets hit in a driveby? That's different, zero days happen. But I'd say a good 90%+ of the inf

      • by cosm ( 1072588 )

        I mean when you actually watch some of these people, blinding pounding the next [sic]

        I know most users are dolts, but I thought that was an old wives tale!

        • Re:Celebration (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @02:57AM (#35488506) Journal

          Hi Cosm! Sadly I wish that it was, but as someone who has been in the repair biz since Win3.x it is all too true. hell I'll give you a perfect example of why social engineering works: I had a customer with me sitting right exactly there telling her specifically "Do NOT open that password protected zip and run it, it is a virus!" and got told "Oh you're just paranoid, see the name? My BFF Kim sent this to me! Kim wouldn't do that!" and so she ignored me AND the AV which was practically trying to hurl itself between her and the bug and did EXACTLY what I told her not to and promptly pwned her own machine.

          So sadly my friend I can state with 100% certainty it is NOT a myth or old wives tale, it is all too real. Look up the top 10 list of malware by installation and then look to see how they infect and you'll find a good 8 out of 10 if not 10 out of 10 rely on the user to pwn themselves by ignoring best practices, ignoring the EULA, never reading anything, and just blindly clicking next to continue.

          The latest nasty going around is the "Security tool" variant which is installed on MILLIONS of machines and which I see at least 3 times a week, all done using the "ZOMG! u got teh bugz! Install 'is_not-viruz.exe" to kill it ZOMG!" and that damned thing is installed on millions of PCs using that lame BS tactic. No shit. Sad but true my friend, sad but true. And Linux security wouldn't do a damned thing, in fact here is How to write a Linux virus in 5 easy steps [] using the same tricks and it WILL work because so many refuse to think.

          • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )
            Reminds me of the time the dean of engineering at a state university got an email with an attachment. He didn't recognize the sender, but tried to open the attachment anyway. When it didn't seem to be doing anything, he forwarded the email to his assistant, the office manager, and a couple of other people, asking them to try to open the mysterious .bat file. Then when none of them could get it to work, one of them called me in tech support to try to open it for them. Spent the rest of my day cleaning up the
  • each and every day.

    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

      My favorite virus of all time was the Ping Pong virus ( I have an infected 5 1/4" floppy around here somewhere that I kept just for the fun of it. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't really work to well on modern computers.....but I could be wrong......

  • Core War (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2011 @07:35PM (#35485870)

    I'm too young (alive in 1971, but only a kid) to remember Creeper, but I remember Core War in the early 1980s, a game inspired by Creeper and Reaper. The programs written for Core War were the conceptual ancestors of the modern virus, competing in Darwinian fashion to destroy each other and take over the system's core memory. Different coding strategies were involved, such as writing a program to be self-repairing vs. keeping it simple and small enough to evade detection vs. brute force offense and defense be damned, etc. All perfectly harmless... but I can't help wondering how many 1980s virus coders learned some of their craft from Core War.

  • by andrewa ( 18630 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @07:51PM (#35486054)

    Your AMIGA is alive !!!

  • by Traiano ( 1044954 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @08:02PM (#35486174)

    In 2006 or so I went to a conference in Redmond (WinHEC, I believe) where one of Microsoft's security team managers presented and overview of the virus threat to the desktop market. One of the things Microsoft had recently learned is that the majority of exploits were coming from hackers that had reverse engineered Windows patches to identify where Microsoft was correcting buffer overflow issues. Based on that knowledge, hackers knew un-patched versions of Windows could be exploited.

    The strategy at MSFT became somewhat simple at that point: minimize the time between a security update's release and its application on 100% of networked computers. The presenter could show that MSFT had brought this average time down from months to weeks back then. Its clear to me that Microsoft has continued to make gains in this space over the years.

    Lastly, the presenter showed that the exact same process applied to Linux. Few hackers find vulnerabilities to poring through an entire operating system's code base. They reverse-engineer patches and then hunt for un-patched systems. Microsoft claimed to be ahead of Linux in their ability to mass-apply security patches and he showed results that a Linux honeypot would be compromised slightly quicker that Windows, although not significantly so. I found the author credible in his data but recognize that he had an agenda with his presentation.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      However i still don't see a massive amount of threats in linux (besides its open source nature) like you can see every month in microsoft reports. If you summ up all virus that has been present in linux over its entire history it doesn't compare with a single year of MS, and i repeat BESIDES ITS OPEN SOURCE NATURE.

      pd.: sorry for my awfull eng.

      • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:11PM (#35487138) Journal

        Look it is actually very simple why Windows gets more bugs. Most bugs are made by criminals, and criminals like most predators are naturally lazy. they want to get as much as they can for as little work as they can. They target Windows because as someone who actually works on the things 6 days a week I can tell you that is where the stupid people are by a loooong shot.

        Doesn't make Windows bad, I have machines that have been running nearly a decade with no bugs, just retired my Win2K after a decade bug free, etc. but for every person like me that follows best practices you probably have 100,000 that will blindly click on anything, never read a EULA, will happily click through any UAC or virus warning, as long as you offer them something they want, or spook them.

        Most of the bugs I see, and I usually get to see them all, but a good 90% of the infections that cross my desk can be divided into TWO categories. The "ZOMG! U got teh viruz ZOMG! Run this "is_not_bugz.exe" to kill teh viruz ded! ZOMG!" or the "Want to watch this hot porn FOR FREE? Well you can! All you have to do is load our "is_not_bugz_iz_codec.exe" to see the hot action NOW!"

        In both of those cases the vaunted Linux security would do exactly jack and squat since the user is actively helping the malware and as long as the user has the right to install then there is nothing you can do. Repos wouldn't help because they would ignore you for the malware writer, an AV can only do so much if the user is working against it. Frankly MSFT could develop the perfect security model tomorrow and as long as Sally Dipshit is allowed to install and Horny Hank Hugeass is willing to ignore all warnings to get a chance at free titties? You're still fucked.

        So just be glad you're a niche Linux guys, because look at all the bugs coming out for Android. Where goes the masses goes the stupid and the bugs along with them. All you can do is give them "the look" [] and keep them off your PCs.

        • so according to you its because the users are stupid that windows is over run with virus and malware problems and osx and linux are largely left alone. Even with android it takes a trojan from an unofficial market place on a rooted phone to get infected and there is no replication.

          I'm just not buying that,there are stupid users on every platform but they are not getting hit. You don't need to be great with computers to use Linux and there are a good number of people that are not good with computers using Li

          • Look, you want to see me blow through your famous Linux security like shit through a goose? Well here you go [] tada! Using the exact same tricks as they use on Windows and as simple as opening an email attachment (sound familiar?) I can royally fuck your Linux OS. Send spam, alter files, set myself up to autostart. Gee, doesn't this sound like Windows?

            The ONLY reason you don't see malware writers using this trick (which BTW they have in the past, look up "KDE theme virus" to see for yourself) is because you

            • interesting link but there is the problem that an image file is shown as an image file of the image on the desktop or even in the home directory certainly in the case of 10.04 . Even in the article its mentioned xubuntu isn't vulnerable to this. It's also from 3 years ago and was using 8.10 we are now in 2011 and ubuntu has had 9.04, 9.10, 10.04. 10,10 and in a few weeks 11.04 will be released.

              ok lets say the truth is that its still possible to infect a Desktop or OSX or Linux system. it is still pretty mi

              • We have a saying for what you are advocating and it is called security through obscurity and if you are gonna go that route you are better off using AROS or Ecomstation or any of the other even more obscure OSes.

                Of course that is also ignoring there is a downside to STO, and that is when a bug DOES come along you're fucked just as there were several thousand that got bit by the KDE theme virus, even though it was on a relatively obscure site that required an activity that many don't do.

                I would argue that us

  • I was impressed when reading TFA (Yep, I actually read it for a change) to find out how advanced the original 'Creeper' virus was. It had artificial intelligence and everything - read again... "...and starts over, thereby hoping from system to system". It only 'hoped' from one system to the next - that's cool.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2011 @09:29PM (#35486864)

    This is a typical puff piece by an ignorant reporter. Why didn't they ask a real virus researcher about some of the most influential viruses? Where is there no comment about BRAIN, the first international-spread virus which invented the boot-sector infection path? Why no mention of the amazing prevalence of FORM, which constituted about 1/3 of all infections in the world at its height? Why is there nothing about CONCEPT, the Microsoft-written virus which ushered in the era of high-level language macro viruses?

    Why are the only viruses mentioned ones which there has been some public fuss about? I know - because the author knows nothing about this arcane technical subject, but hasn't let that get in the way of writing 500 words....

    • I agree - where's Robert Tappan Morris's Internet worm?

    • Right... I don't see how anyone pretending to know anything about the history of the computer virus phenomenon could fail to mention the Pakistani Brain Virus.

      What Stuxnet targets is pretty well known -- the controllers for those uranium isotope separating centrifuges. It changes the speed to physically damage them. The reporter didn't even attempt to pretend that he'd done his homework.

  • by devent ( 1627873 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @09:55PM (#35487038) Homepage

    An article about the history of computer viruses that mentions Microsoft, Windows or IIS only 7 times? Lets start with a better list (thank you Wikipedia):

    * Michelangelo: The virus was designed to infect DOS systems
    * Melissa: It can spread on word processors Microsoft Word 97 and Word 2000 and also Microsoft Excel 97, 2000 and 2003. It can mass-mail itself from e-mail client Microsoft Outlook 97 or Outlook 98.
    * I LOVE YOU: is a computer worm that successfully attacked tens of millions of Windows computers in 2000
    * Code Red: 359,000 Microsoft's IIS web server.
    * Sasser: running [on] vulnerable versions of the Microsoft operating systems Windows XP and Windows 2000
    * Zotob: [runs on] Microsoft operating systems like Windows 2000,
    * Storm botnet: The botnet, or zombie network, comprises computers running Microsoft Windows as their operating system, with the Storm worm at one point accounting for 8% of all malware on Microsoft Windows computers.
    * Koobface: is designed to infect Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, but also works on Linux (in a limited fashion)
    * Conficker: targeting the Microsoft Windows operating system, with more than seven million government, business and home computers in over 200 countries now under its control.
    * Stuxnet: is a Windows computer worm discovered in July 2010 that targets industrial software and equipment. Iran 62,867; Indonesia 13,336; India 6,552; United States 2,913;Australia 2,436;United Kingdom 1,038;Malaysia 1,013;Pakistan 993, all Windows.

    What’s next? Are you kidding me? More Windows infected machines, more spam and more attacks on governments and industry that are stupid enough to pay for this system.

  • ... Seems they just get better with age!
  • This is sad. Slasdotters are so used to not reading TFA that they sometimes miss interesting stories like this one. It's a light and amusing article. Read it!

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990