Malware – The Original

Stephen Hawking“I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.”― Stephen Hawking

Last time I checked, 78% of the work done at Computer & Software Solutions involved some sort of malware/virus removal, and with numbers that high, it’s no wonder that every now and then some customer “jokingly” asks if we’re responsible for spreading the nasty things. (We aren’t)
It may surprise you to know that the first, recognized virus was written and disseminated, allegedly,  without malicious intent.  In January of 1986, two brothers from Pakistan, 17 year old Basit and 24 year old Amjad, owned a computer store and they sold programs they had written and clean copies of bootlegged software.  Computer software is not copyright protected in Pakistan, but the brothers soon learned that their copies were being sold or transferred to international tourists and students and transported for use back to other countries.  So they began embedding code on their software programs, and if they were copied, the code was activated and would wreck havoc on the user’s MS-DOS driven system.  They called their binary creationBrain“, and included a text “signature” within the virus.
The first known US victims were students at the University of Delaware, and it soon spread across other universities and several prominent newspaper systems. Once Brain infected a system, every floppy disk inserted thereafter would be rendered useless.  It caused significant damage to many users, but to this day, the brothers maintain that they didn’t create the virus for malicious reasons, and they believe they did the world a favor by bringing the problem of software piracy to the forefront.
No legal action was ever taken against the Alvi brothers and today, they own Brain Net, the largest internet service provider in Pakistan. (Who says crime doesn’t pay?)
Back then, Brain could only be transmitted and spread by people carrying around and sharing infected 5.25″ floppy disks, but today’s viruses travel and spread globally at lightning speeds.

It’s estimated that there are over 1.5 million viruses trying to find a way into your system and half of all PCs are currently, or have been, infected.  Additionally, consumers spend over $5 billion per year for software intended to keep them safe or services to clean their machines.

So, if you’re ever traveling to Pakistan, be sure to look up the Alvi brothers and tell them I said “thanks”.

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