History of Computer Virus

History of Computer Virus

Get in touch with Neumetric

Sidebar Conversion Form
Contact me for...


Contact me at...

Mobile Number speeds everything up!

Your information will NEVER be shared outside Neumetric!

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is a malicious program that can infect computers, devices and systems. The most common way for it to spread is through email attachments, websites and links on social media platforms. A computer virus is a piece of code that gets into your system and starts damaging files or programs by itself. To get rid of these viruses you need anti-virus software like Norton Security or Kaspersky Lab.

A virus is a type of malware that can copy itself and spread to other computers. It’s often associated with the damaging effects it can have on your computer, such as deleting files or causing your computer to slow down. Viruses are often written by human hackers who want to steal information from you or cause chaos on the internet. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself against viruses that we will look at later in this article. Let us look at the history of computer viruses, how it all began and what effects it has in the world.

What is the history of viruses in computers?

The history of computer viruses goes back to the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1989 that one caused major damage. Since then, more types of viruses have been created, including some used for espionage or political purposes.

The first computer virus, Elk Cloner (1982)

In January 1982, Rick Skrenta wrote and released a program known as Elk Spread or Elk Cloner. The virus was not intended to harm or gain access to sensitive data, it was a simple experiment attempting to spread from Apple II PCs via floppy disks. It was the first virus that spread via computer networks i.e Local Area Networks [LANs] and is considered by many as the first true computer virus ever written. The virus would not only infect the user’s floppy disk but also display a message on screen every time it ran “Elk Cloner: The program with antlers again!”

The history of computer viruses began with no malicious intent; it was written by Rich Skrenta at the age of 15 and only infected a small number of Apple computers. The virus did not attack the data on the computer but instead targeted the boot sector of the floppy disks, hiding itself in a location where it could launch each time a computer started up. This is significant because it made Elk Cloner one of the first viruses to infect computers via a removable drive, which increased its spread exponentially.

The virus was also designed to stay dormant if it was run from within an antivirus program (something that had been done before), so as not to interfere with legitimate software. However, once removed from such an environment and executed on its own, Elk Cloner would activate and infect any floppy disk inserted into an infected drive by writing itself into that computer’s boot sector. Its purpose was not malicious; rather, it was intended as harmless fun for those who were familiar with programming languages like assembly language and machine language (which allowed users access to low-level functions like reading/writing files).

The advent of computer viruses is closely related to the development of computing technology and information security technology. The first generation of computer viruses appeared in the early 1980s, when a number of small-scale malicious software have been found in different countries around the world.

Experiment by Rick Skrenta

The Elk Cloner virus, written by Rick Skrenta, was the first computer virus to spread across a network via email. In 1981, Elk Hunter was distributed through Bulletin Board Systems [BBS] and infected Apple II CPUs after users downloaded a game he wrote called “Elk Hunter.” It replicated itself across BBS servers and infected any floppy disks that were subsequently inserted into an infected computer.

The Elk Hunter virus was also unique in that it could spread through Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel—programs which hadn’t been widely used at that time but became common later on. The virus proved more successful than its predecessors and quickly spread around Europe.

It was a macro-based virus, which meant that it could easily be created using the macro programming language in Microsoft Word. In fact, almost anyone with access to Word could write one of these viruses – an example being Melissa (1999), written by David Smith, which infected over half a million computers worldwide in less than 48 hours!

The macro viruses are more dangerous than the normal viruses due to their ability to replicate themselves without any user interaction. They have been observed as being able to spread over networks and removable storage media, such as CD-ROMs or USB flash drives. The main difference between macro viruses and worms is that a worm can replicate itself using many different methods, whereas macro viruses require human intervention from time to time (i.e., when a victim executes infected code in an application).

The Melissa Virus (1999)

In the history of computer viruses, Melissa was just a small part of an outbreak of malicious code that swept through networks around the world during the 1990s and early 2000s.

When Melissa was first released in 1999, it was not particularly effective as a means of spreading itself because it required social engineering (tricking users into opening an attachment). The virus’ success came from its ability to generate news coverage that brought many more computers under its control. The Melissa virus infected more than one million systems worldwide within hours after being released into the wild; this included over 100 major corporations and universities plus thousands of home computers — even those running Linux operating systems — proving that all platforms are vulnerable if not properly secured by their owners

The Melissa worm is unlike any other computer virus before it for several reasons:

  • It is the first virus to use email as a vector.
  • It is the first virus to spread through email attachments.
  • It is the first virus to spread worldwide in a matter of hours.
  • It is the first virus to cause actual damage to computers and networks.

The Melissa worm is unlike any other computer virus before it for several reasons. First, the success of its propagation was unprecedented at the time. Whereas previous viruses could only spread if users intentionally opened an infected file, Melissa used a trick called “auto-replication” to infect computers autonomously and spread itself through emails in the form of an attachment named “Letter from [name]” with a subject line reading: “Here is that document you asked me to look over.”

Second, rather than simply causing damage or spamming people with ads as many viruses do today, Melissa had malicious intent behind its creation: The worm contained an embedded macro programming language that allowed it to replicate itself via email.

Thirdly—and most importantly—the creator of this virus was never identified; there’s nothing like that in malware history until now!

The infamous digital-age viruses

Although the history of computer viruses go back to 1982. It started to have a significant impact only in the early 1990s.

Like Melissa, Code Red, and ILOVEYOU are collectively known as worms. Worms are computer programs that run on infected computers without the knowledge of the user. They spread themselves to other computers by sending copies of themselves to email addresses found in the infected machine’s address book. Worms can also spread by exploiting weaknesses in network security protocols such as FTP, Telnet, and DNS.

From the the history of computer viruses to come out till date, some of the most destructive ones are :

  • The Love Bug, a worm that crashed computers worldwide in May 2000.
  • The ILOVEYOU Virus was a computer virus that carried a love letter from someone in the Philippines to all their online friends. It was created by a Filipino programmer, who sent it out as an attachment to an email message with the subject line “ILOVEYOU”. The virus was designed to infect computers running Microsoft Windows on May 3rd 2000, at exactly 10:00 AM GMT+8 (Manila Time).
  • The Slammer worm, which infected more than 90 percent of all vulnerable machines on the Internet within 10 minutes of its release in January 2003.
  • Code Red II and Nimda, both worms that launched massive denial-of-service attacks against major websites in July 2001.
  • In November 2003, the Blaster worm infected more than 250,000 Windows machines in less than 24 hours. The Slammer worm is believed to be the fastest spreading computer virus ever released into cyberspace. It spread at a rate of about one million computers per minute during its first day, etc.
  • The Wannacry Ransomware (which is also a type of virus) was a worldwide cyber attack that started on May 12, 2017. The attack initially targeted the National Health Service (NHS) in England, but soon spread globally to other Organisations and businesses. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that locks up your files or holds your computer system hostage until you pay a fee to get it back. In this case, the hackers demanded $300 in bitcoin per infected computer.

Most Common ways computer get infected with viruses

Computer viruses are not just transmitted through email. They can also be transmitted by visiting malicious websites, downloading infected files, and downloading infected programs. The following is a list of the most common ways that your computer might get infected with a virus:

  • Email attachments: Most viruses are sent as email attachments in emails that claim to be from someone you know or from a legitimate company or institution. If you receive an email with an attachment from someone you don’t know, think twice before opening it!
  • Visiting malicious websites: Most people think that they’re safe if they never click on anything while surfing the web; however, many websites have hidden code that automatically downloads malware onto your PC when viewed without warning.
  • Peer-to-peer file sharing: The peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing protocol allows you to download music, movies, games and software from other people’s computers. Unfortunately, these files are often infected with viruses that will install themselves on your computer when you try to play them.
  • Downloading pirated software or games: Many people think that downloading pirated versions of popular software is fine because they don’t have to pay for it; however, doing so can expose your computer to malicious code embedded in the files.

How to stay safe from computer viruses?

  • Install antivirus software.
  • Update your operating system regularly.
  • Don’t open suspicious emails or attachments in them, even if they appear to be from friends and family.
  • Don’t visit suspicious websites, especially those that offer free downloads of games or tools, including pirated software and unauthorised file sharing sites.
  • Don’t click on popups that appear in an instant when you are browsing the internet through Chrome, Firefox or any other browser. They might contain malicious code that can install a virus on your computer without your knowledge!


The history of computer viruses is long and storied, with many different types of malicious code having been released over time. Today, there are hundreds of different types of viruses and malwares that can infect your computer and steal your personal data. With the internet being such an integral part of our lives, it’s important to be aware of these dangers so that we can protect ourselves! However, by taking the right precautions when using the internet and keeping your computer protected with antivirus software, you can ensure that your data is safe from harm.

Neumetric, a cyber security products and services Organisation can help your Organisation remain safe from cyber attacks by implementing security standards and frameworks that make you resilient to cyber attacks. Our ISO 27001, EU GDPR, and other services ensure that we train your employees on how to remain safe from viruses and malware. For more information about our services, click here.


Who first invented computer virus?

The history of computer viruses go back to the early 1980s where the first ever computer virus was created in 1981 by Rick Skrenta and it was called Elk Cloner. This virus did not attack data but instead targeted the boot sector on floppy disks so that it could run every time a computer started up.

What is the purpose of computer viruses?

The purpose of a computer virus is to spread from one computer to another without the user’s knowledge. They are malicious programs that function on their own and can cause damage to your computer or even steal personal data like credit card numbers, passwords, etc.

Sidebar Conversion Form
Contact me for...


Contact me at...

Mobile Number speeds everything up!

Your information will NEVER be shared outside Neumetric!

Recent Posts

Sidebar Conversion Form
Contact me for...


Contact me at...

Mobile Number speeds everything up!

Your information will NEVER be shared outside Neumetric!