Computers have been around for a very long time. The internet has been around for shorter but still quite long amount of time.
While both of these inventions have unarguably brought an immeasurable amount of good and innovation into the world there’s no surprise that people have still tried and succeeded to do bad deeds with it.
There are uncountable things to do on the internet, like Youtube, FaceBook, Yahoo or whatever other of the countless websites that are available for your personal enjoyment every day. There are games and activities you can play through the internet like the old nostalgic now obsolete flash games or Slots Play Casinos.
But everywhere someone puts in the effort to give you something interesting and dopamine inducing there are an equal number of people attempting to get a quick buck by any means necessary.
I’m not saying that any of those companies or websites I just mentioned are not trying to just get a quick buck out of you, but they are at least considerate about it and still give you something to get a shot of entertainment while they do it.
There are probably dozens if not hundreds of different types of scams, each of which is probably attempted thousands (if not millions) times per day.
It wouldn’t be surprising if it is millions of dollars each year that gets scammed out of people through the internet.
It’s not just money that is scammed out of people, or even just scams that are run through the internet. There are groups of hackers that break into secure databases to get information just to be able to release it to the public for some sort of noble cause or something of that sort.
The types of scams and crimes committed through the internet is an endless list. The history of where scams like these started though, that can actually be traced.
Where it started
Because of how relatively recent the internet is and how much information about it’s creation and the programs that were created and run on it at the beginning, due to it being a government project, we know exactly when, where and why the first computer “virus” was created.
It was made by a man named Bob Thomas as a joke. He worked for the original university that created the internet. He realized one day that a computer program can move itself to another computer through the internet. When it got there it could leave something behind before moving on to the next computer.
He created it to move through terminals at the university printing the message “I’M THE CREEPER : CATCH ME IF YOU CAN”.
It was a harmless program that could only move across a network, so in today’s terms, only on computers on the same WIFI.
Ray Tomlinson saw this program created by his colleague and wondered what else it could do. Ray was the same man that invented email.
He came up with the idea of the program sending itself to any other computer the computer it was on could access. It would replicate itself and spread itself anywhere it could to send its message “I’M THE CREEPER : CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!”.
This was both the first computer viruses and the first computer worm, a computer virus that self replicate itself endlessly.
This is the humble beginnings of what would cause untold damages and stolen money and information for decades to come.
Its turn to crime
Cyber security has been around far longer than any actually harmful viruses though. With companies and government agencies moving over to computers for their file keeping and any other tasks they were doing there was a big focus on encryption.
You obviously don’t want anyone who can connect to your computer to be able to read all of your confidential files and steel company or government secrets.
So throughout the earlier years of computers (aka the 70s through 80s) the threat of computer viruses spread through the internet was mostly non existent.
The cyber security was simple encryption for emails and password locked computers.
This age didn’t last long. Once the internet and computers started becoming something more than just a science experiment for universities and an expensive tool for big businesses it didn’t take long for someone to figure out how to use it for crime.
The first people to create a truly nefarious computer virus were the Russians.
It was in 1986 that the first major computer hack happened and that was a German named Marcus Hess working for the KGB who was able to hack into the Darpanet (the internet used in America at the time before the creation of the World Wide Web or WWW).
He used his way into the Darpanet to steal and decrypt over four hundred different classified government documents.
It took an astronomer who happened to notice the intrusion into the Darpanet and set up a type of bait file for the German hacker to try and steal before the man was caught and the backdoor into the system closed.
After this happened and the news started talking about it, along with things like the Morris Worm that happened around the same time, the need and idea for an anti virus became a thing.
The Rise of Anti Viruses
It didn’t take long after these two big events for companies offering different forms of anti viruses to start popping up.
In the early nineties things like Windows started including anti virus directly in the operating system, like the Windows Defender we have nowadays.
But the creation of anti viruses wasn’t as simple as find virus, delete virus.
At the beginning, because of how little viruses and malware there were, the first anti viruses simply scanned programs and files on your computers for ones that included the code or parts of the code known to be in malware of the time.
While this worked well for a short period, since it was relatively simple and lightweight, as soon as more viruses and malware started coming out it quickly became inefficient and simply impossible to maintain.
Because for every new virus or malware created someone would need to physically add its code or references or some other identifiable part of it to the anti viruses database so that the anti virus knows that that thing is a virus.
A new way of combating and stopping malicious files and code from being run was needed.
The first new type of anti virus developed was a program that recognized parts of what they called malware families.
Most virus and other things of that sort at the time all used a lot of the same code.
A lot of people either simply copied a lot of their code from other sources or forums online or there simply wasn’t many ways of doing something, either using known exploits to get into peoples machines or other things like that.
With most malware using bits of the same code or being very similar these new anti virus programs simply looked for those frequently used bits of code or something similar to it and flagged it as a virus.
This was quite less accurate than the previous one that knew exactly what was a virus and what wasn’t and it was also slower but it was the only one that worked in the growing environment of millions of new malware created every year.
This idea is the core baseline of most anti virus programs used even to this day. Of course most of them now use far more advanced systems than just being told specific code snippets that are in viruses and then attempting to find them in programs.
In the age of things like machine learning and other advanced ways of computers learning things anti viruses nowadays are sometimes a battle against itself of trying to create a virus and then creating a solution to stop said virus.
It’s truly amazing stuff. There are billions of dollars put each year into advancing anti malware and virus technology.
Even with the massive advances being made and the massive piles of money being poured into it its still not quite there yet with even actual anti virus and protection companies like SolarWinds getting broken into and data being stolen during late 2020.