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What happened to computer viruses?

Computer Viruses: Understanding Their Evolution and How They Impact Us Today

By Teng HueyPublished about a year ago 3 min read

Computer viruses have been around since the early days of computing, with the first known virus, "Creeper," being introduced in 1971. Initially, viruses were relatively harmless and were used to demonstrate computer vulnerabilities and how to address them. However, with the rise of the internet and the increase in the number of people using computers, viruses became more dangerous and destructive.

In the past, many of us were afraid of getting a computer virus, and we would pay for antivirus protection from companies like McAfee and Norton to avoid getting a Trojan Virus. Despite our efforts, getting a virus was often inevitable, and we had to resort to booting our computers into safe mode, deleting recently downloaded files, running virus scans, and hoping that our computers would boot up the next time and that no data was corrupted or lost.

Fast forward to today, and the thought of a computer virus destroying our computer rarely crosses our minds. Many of us have completely stopped purchasing external antivirus protection, yet our computer experience is better than ever, and we don't have to deal with those slow virus scans. So, did computer viruses just get eradicated like Polio or Smallpox? Unfortunately, the answer is no, as we still hear about data breaches and hacks all the time.

To understand why viruses are no longer a big threat for most of us, we need to look at how viruses work in the first place. Initially, viruses were relatively simple and would keep replicating themselves until the computer ran out of space and became inoperational. However, as computers became generally available, hackers started trying to reverse engineer code, and we started seeing much more deadly viruses.

The first real-world virus called "Brain" appeared in 1986, and unlike Creeper, its goal was to corrupt your computer. It did this by latching onto your boot disk, moving your real boot sector to another location, and marking it as "bad." Meanwhile, it would overwrite your real boot sector with the virus, making it impossible to boot the computer. Michelangelo appeared in 1991 and worked similarly to Brain, except it would wait until March 6th of every year before infecting computers.

The next virus, CIH, was developed by a university student and launched in 1998. The virus was designed to remain dormant for one month before starting its rampage, overwriting the hard drive, the boot sector, and even the BIOS. This virus was so destructive that it would put even the most overconfident software engineers in their place.

Today, viruses have evolved to become more sophisticated and are designed to steal personal information, hold computer systems ransom, and cause widespread disruption such as Ransomware attacks that can cause a temporary shutdown. Phishing scams to steal personal information and remains a popular method for hackers, these scams can occur through various means, such as email, text messages, or social media, and they often rely on tricking unsuspecting victims into clicking on a link or entering sensitive information. Although computer users are more aware of the risks, and anti-virus software is much more effective, viruses are still a significant threat.

Therefor, while computer viruses are no longer as big of a threat to most people as they were in the past, they still exist and can be very dangerous. Initially, viruses were simple and harmless, but they have evolved to become more sophisticated and can cause significant damage, such as stealing personal information or holding computer systems ransom. While anti-virus software has become more effective, it's essential to stay vigilant and take necessary precautions to avoid becoming a victim of a computer virus, such as being careful when downloading files or clicking on links, keeping software up to date, and backing up important data.

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About the Creator

Teng Huey

As a tech enthusiast with a passion for learning and exploring new topics, I write about the latest trends in technology, as well as a variety of other subjects. From science to culture and everything in between.

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    Teng HueyWritten by Teng Huey

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