Computer malware and viruses are terms we’ve all heard of before but what do they mean? What different types are there? And how do you protect against each of them? In the next series of blogs, we’re going to look at the most common types of viruses and how they can infect your system, and then we’ll give you a checklist of the best ways to prevent your home and business PCs from being compromised.
First, let’s have a look at what kicked it all off – the first computer virus and how it came about.
- It all began in 1966 with John von Neumann’s article on the ‘Theory of self-reproducing automata’ – OK I KNOW THIS SOUNDS BORING BUT STICK WITH ME! Neumann’s theory stated that it should be possible for a type of autonomous robot (or a computer program, hint hint) to reproduce itself repeatedly using materials found in the environment.
- This theory piqued the interest of Bob Thomas at BBN Technologies in 1971, leading him to create the first computer virus solely to test this theory. His virus was called Creeper, and it was an experimental program that autonomously moved on DEC PDP-10 computers running the TENEX operating system (see picture below).
- The program used the ARPANET to move itself between DEC PDP-10s, leaving behind the message ‘I’M THE CREEPER : CATCH ME IF YOU CAN’ – which is definitely creepy!
Side note: The ARPANET stands for the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. This network is known as the first iteration of a network similar to the internet and was first introduced in 1969. It connected research facilities and universities together in order to make data sharing easier.
- After this demonstration of the Creeper simply moving, Ray Tomlinson wrote an enhanced version of it where it replicated across systems instead of simply moving – proving that Neumann’s theory from 5 years before was indeed possible, at least in regards to computer programs. (This was also the first example of a computer worm – but we’ll talk more about it in this blog if you want to skip ahead!)
- Once Tomlinson proved it could be done, he then created a program called Reaper which also moved across the ARPANET but instead of leaving a message like the Creeper did, it deleted the Creeper from devices it had infected.
- So Ray Tomlinson invented both the first worm AND the first anti-virus. A busy man!
- Now looking at the IT landscape 55 years later, variants of malware continue to grow, with each one designed to be harder to trace and remove.
Keep an eye on the ECS blog for more helpful articles and the rest of this series!
Are you secure against malware? Give us a call on 01553 692727 to see how we can help protect you, your business, and your home.
‘Core War: Creeper & Reaper’, https://corewar.co.uk/creeper.htm
‘Self-replicating machine’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-replicating_machine
‘DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) PDP-10 CPU, model KI-10’, Gah4, 25/02/2015, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38604047