Technology

Who Created the First Computer Virus?

Who Created the First Computer Virus?

Technology has been nothing short of a miracle. These devices give us access to vast amounts of information and have brought the world closer than ever before. Not to mention, they make it super easy to watch dumb videos online. However, computers have a dark side to them. They can be infected with all manner of viruses, including malware and ransomware. Where did these computer viruses come from though? How did it all start? Let's take a look back in history and see who created the first computer virus.

You might be surprised to learn that a ninth-grader created the first malware. Despite the media portrayal of the average hacker, it all began with some kid working on his Apple II computer way back in 1981. It was created by Richard Skrenta, who knew an awful lot about computers and how to make them do what he wanted.

A ninth-grader created the first malware.

It all began as a bit of a prank. Skrenta would create pirated games for his friends on floppy disks. This was back before the internet allowed us to download games at whim. The games were programmed to work properly, but they would self-destruct after a while and the games would be unplayable. 

His friends eventually stopped lending him their games, so he moved on to take his ideas to the next level and create the first official computer virus. It was known as the "Elk Cloner" virus. The intrepid Skrenta left a virus on the Apple II operating system his school used. If someone was to put a floppy disk inside the infected computer, then the virus would automatically copy itself to the floppy disk. Whenever they put the disk inside another computer, that computer would then be infected with the Elk Cloner virus and start infecting other clean floppy disks. 

Rich Skrenta: Co-founder of search engine Blekko and alleged creator of the first computer virus.

Once again, this virus was kept behind a time lock. This time, when the program was copied for the 50th time, it displayed a poem informing the user that their disk had been infected by Elk Cloner. This extended time-release meant that it could go on for longer periods and affect a lot of computers before anyone even knew what happened. Then again, all it did was cause a poem to open up for the unlucky number 50. It's a far cry from what modern viruses do. If only viruses had continued to be a form of technological practical joke. 

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