Computer viruses as we know them today first became a widespread problem during the late 80s. Although they had existed since the mid 70s, home computers were virtually non-existent so they were never regarded as an issue. Real computers were a rare commodity owned only by technology experts and businesses. Anyone who did own one during this time would have more than likely had some form of programming knowledge and was, therefore, often able to eliminate threats independently. However, by the late 80s PCs were in schools, colleges and places of work. While they were still considered a luxury household item, they were slowly starting to become affordable for the everyday consumer.
The Timeline of Computer Viruses
Cheeky Munkey have compiled an infographic detailing the evolution of computer viruses from 1974 up until the present day. Through this information you can learn about how malicious software has affected the world we live in, and will find statistics about major threat types and how much money they’ve cost the economy.
The Floppy Disk
The creation of the floppy disk spurred on the creation of new viruses – programs were very small, and even entire video games could fit on them. Not every computer had a hard drive, so operating systems and everything else would only load when a floppy was inserted. Hackers and programmers started to realise that they already had a platform to take advantage of, and because piracy was also becoming a common practice, they knew that there was a way of spreading their malicious code around.
When the Internet became a common feature of the everyday household, viruses spread like wildfire. This was especially apparent when the Melissa virus – the first virus to latch to emails – was invented, which would infect Outlook and send itself to 50 contacts. Eventually it had distributed itself to more than one million computers.
Up until the early 00s, viruses rarely caused financial problems; they were more of an annoyance that did nothing but reduce system performance. However, when the MyDoom virus was launched in January 2004, everything changed. This was, and remains to be the most costly virus of all time. It was distributed via file sharing networks and allowed hackers to gain access to personal information. It ended up infecting everything from banks and government portals to charity organisations and corporate empires. The software would slow computers and cause them to reboot for no apparent reason, and cost the world over $48 billion.
Present Day Malware
Nowadays viruses come under the malware umbrella, which is short for malicious software. There are literally millions in existence, and each month antivirus software creators have to add thousands of variants to their database. Viruses pose a huge threat to technology and not even the largest and most powerful companies in the world can stop them. Everything from government websites to console hardware has been infected, and with the rise of tablets and smart phones, hackers are finding new ways to spread them.