This time, I have a topic to discuss that is pretty fascinating. We're going to learn some history about one of history's more undervalued subjects today: viruses.
On the 10th of November 1983, The University of Le-high in Pennsylvania, USA, was hosting a seminar. Before a small group of seminar attendees, the word "virus" was suddenly spoken.
The word's use was unusual since, upon hearing the phrase, everyone immediately thought of the isolate that had been discovered at the Pasteur Institute in Paris a few months before. After all, a typical virus might always be the origin of a brand-new illness. However, they understood what the term "virus" meant on that particular day.
The audience watched as Fred Cohen, a graduate student from the University of Southern California, inserted a diskette into a VAX11/750 mainframe computer. The program's "hidden code" installed quickly and took over, effectively replicating and spreading to the various other connected machines exactly like a real biological virus.
I want to make the point that at the time, discussing viruses in the context of the digital world was essentially impossible. Only the wealthiest and most technically inclined people were using an Apple II computer or one of its earliest rivals, which had only been introduced two years prior. However, things started to alter…
Wednesday, November 3rd, Cohen explained to OpenMind how a chat with his former boss Leonard Adleman led to the naming of the code, which behaved exactly like a virus, as a "virus."
The Cohen virus was, in principle, quite straightforward: "The code for reproduction merely needed a few lines and a few minutes to write." However, it goes without saying that "The instrumentation itself, along with the controls, took practically a full day."
In an article titled "This study serves to describe a major computer security problem—a "virus," Cohen presented his invention in 1984. The truth is, however, that there were already analogous earlier incidents before that first virus designated as such occurred, as would be discovered after additional in-depth research by Mr. Cohen and his superior. Rewinding a few years, It's 1971, Creeper was invented by BBN's Robert Thomas.
I'm the creeper: catch me if you can was displayed by a programme that moved between computers linked to the ARPANET. Although we can't truly say for sure, the research community typically believes the experimental software Creeper to be the first virus and/or worm.
After all, there isn't enough information to create a whole time line. For instance, there isn't enough information to create a complete time line. For instance, Rich Skrenta, then 15 years old, created the Elk Cloner virus just a year before Cohen's class. Another, "The first computer virus," this time one that escaped a lab.
By introducing a diskette containing a game that concealed the virus, Skrenta had built it as a joke and infected his friends' Apple II computers with it. Just one year prior to Cohen's class, Rich Skrenta, then 15 years old, created the Elk Cloner virus. We have plenty of time, fortunately, to figure out what's going on and learn more about the fairly fascinating history of computer viruses.
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