On the Origin and Evolution of Computer Viruses

Compelling statistics on virus present levels of infections sets the scene to this brief history of computer viruses.

Computer viruses and malware have been "in the wild" for almost 25 years already.

Trends and industry analysts state that the efforts of the propagators will not relent. Last year marked the first ever mobile phone virus and Bluetooth technology, for example, compounds the threats to security. 35% of PCs in the US are infected while in China and India the rates hit 50%.

Experts in the field of security report the first virus was spread as early as 1981. Fred Cohen, however, wrote in his seminal paper that the first virus was conceived as an experiment on November 3rd, 1983. Since then viruses and malware have plagued and wreaked havoc among computer systems worldwide. For a comprehensive explanation of viruses and malware read Malware: Wading through the Jargon and What are Spyware, Adware, Keyloggers, Diallers and Root Kits?.

Risks through the Internet
With the advent of such communications advances like the Internet, mobile telephony and Bluetooth (a short range radio technology that simplifies wireless communication among devices such as computers and mobiles. It also aims at quickly and easily connect these devices to the Internet) computer viruses have spread at an alarming rate. The downside to such advances is that where before only a few computers would get infected, now thousands, if not millions, are at the mercy of virus authors.

Early Threats Disables 10% of Computers Infected
In 1987 a large network (ARPANET) used by universities and the US government was infected by a virus. Robert Morris, son of a computer security expert for the National Security Agency, sent malicious code through ARPANET, affecting about 10% of the connected computer hosts - at the time there were only 60,000 hosts connected to the network. The code reproduced itself and filtered through network computers; consequently, the size of the files filled computers' memories, thus disabling numerous machines.

Alarming 66% of PCs today are Infected by Spyware and 35% are infected by viruses in the US
Today, an estimated 1.21 billion people (Computer Industry Almanac) are connected to the Internet with millions of computer hosts connected chatting, exchange files, emails and communicating in general. Can you imagine how easy it is to spread a virus or malware?

One anti-spyware developer, reports that the infection rate of malicious spyware at companies is approximately at 7% and adware appears on an incredible 52% of machines. 3 to 5% of enterprise machines had keyloggers. At homes, the percentages are much higher. The same anti-spyware developer reports that 66% of the PCs scanned by its online tool were found to be infected with an average of 25 spyware entities each. If one were to define cookies as spyware than the rate will shoot up to 88%! Adware was found on 64% of the machines. Viruses and Trojans, reports the company, were found on 7% and 19% of the machines respectively.

According to Panda Software, over 50% of PCs in India and China, for example are infected with a virus. In the US and the UK, the rate is 35%. All in all, this means that many people still remain without active protection today.

Anti-virus is not enough?
In a study performed by security firm Checkbridge, the company ran 2 million email messages through three famous email scanners. None of the programs tested caught all the viruses. The success rates of the scanners varied from 97% to 64%. The CEO of Checkbridge also states that in many cases using two scanners at the same time does not guarantee pinpointing all the viruses all of the time. Similarly, many computer experts report that using two or three anti-spyware programs usually manages to delete 95%+ of spyware.

The Four Pillars of Security
The article "How do I Combat the Dangerous Threats to My Computer and My Data?" extensively describe the things you have to do to combat viruses and other security threats.

  • Invest in good anti-virus software.
  • Install anti-spyware software.
  • Try to install a firewall as the third pillar of security.
  • Use processlibrary.com as a fourth component of security.

Processlibrary.com is a free website gives you information on any and all of the processes that you may be running at the moment. With this information you can immediately identify any possible new threats that may have infiltrated into your system. Processlibrary.com definitions will help you cover that window of time until your preferred anti-virus and anti-spyware software vendors update their scanners.

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