The History of Malware

Since computers have been in use, enterprising programmers have been creating programs that modify their behavior. Some of these programs have been malicious - others productive, and others for entertainment. Here we will present a brief overview of the history of malware.

1971 - Before advanced attacks like STUXNET, there were simple programs that replicated games or cryptic messages to users. The "Creeper Virus" was created in 1971. Once a computer was infected, it displayed a short message to the user daring them to capture "the creeper". Created as an experiment, Creeper did not cause damage - but did foretell the future of malware with its quick spread through systems. "Reaper" was created to hunt and destroy Creeper - one of the first examples of an "anti-virus" program.

1978 - The first "Trojan" is released - a program called ANIMAL. ANIMAL did not destroy a system, but did pass itself along to other computers through copies on multi-user networks. While the user played a guessing game, the program would copy and move itself along.

1981 - "Elk Cloner" for the Apple II is developed. It spreads quickly across Apple II machines through floppy disks, and displays a short taunting poem.

1983 - The term "virus" is first used to describe a computer program in a novel by Frederick Cohen.

1986 - The first virus for IBM-PC computers is released.

1987 - The Jerusalem virus is released. Designed to destroy files on every occurrence of Friday the 13th, this is one of the first time-release viruses that have appeared repeatedly since.

1988 - The Morris Worm is created, and it spreads rapidly throughout the world, becoming the first worm to spread extensively via internet.

1992 - A media frenzy is created as the Michelangelo worm threatens to wipe machines around the world on March 6th. Damage is minimal, but the public profile of malware is raised.

1999 - More advanced malware such as the Happy99 virus, the Melissa worm, and Kak worm are released. These spread very quickly through Microsoft environments used by many internet users.

2000 - ILOVEYOU, a VBScript worm, infects millions of Windows machines within hours of being released into the wild.

2000 - A 15-year-old Canadian boy crashes via a DDoS attack. Yahoo was the number one search engine at the time.

2001 - Worms like Nimda are released, building off vulnerabilities and backdoor entrances created by earlier worms.

2004 - Santy, the first "webworm", spreads through phpBB and uses Google to find new targets.

2007 - Estonia is hit by a deliberate DDoS attack, crashing the prime minister's site as well as several government-run organizations such as schools and banks.

2008 - Conficker, one of the most widespread and notorious pieces of malware ever created, infects approximately 10 million Microsoft server systems, including government and military machines. The media attention garnered by Conficker helps further raise the idea of network security in the public consciousness.

2008 - 2009 - The number of "Scareware" programs - a program that looks like an anti-malware program but is in actuality a form of malware itself - rises rapidly. These programs continue to plague internet users with offers to scan their machines or remove supposedly serious viruses, while spreading their own malware when downloaded.

2010 - Stuxnet appears, and is alleged to have targeted Iranian nuclear facilities. It is widely viewed as the most advanced form of malware ever created.

2012 – Zappos, a popular online ecommerce site specializing in shoes is hacked. During the security breach, the site's 24 million customers names, email addresses, partial credit card numbers and other information was exposed.

Malware Protection

Traditionally, networks use web application firewalls (WAF) Intrustion Prevention Systems (IPS) and Radware  DefensePro and  AppWall, help protect your network and applications against these types of malware threats and more. Along with brute force attacks like DDoS, malware represents a dangerous threat to network security. It is difficult to keep users up-to-date on the latest protection techniques and threats, so a robust security protocol is necessary at the network level. For more information on network security, visit Radware's