History of Computer Viruses, Part 2: Macro Viruses and Worms

From weaponized viruses through computer worms in the 1990s

The computer virus landscape has evolved enormously over the last few decades. Our previous talk discussed the conceptualization and eventual development of the world’s first computer viruses. Today, we’ll explore the evolution of computer viruses from novel experiments into the weaponized viruses that were estimated to have caused billions of dollars of damage in the late-1990’s. In the early days, computer viruses were spread by “sneakernet,” usually a floppy disk, and there was very little appreciation for the dangers that malicious software could present. The rise of the Internet provided a much more effective method of transmission. Macro viruses were designed to target specific applications, most commonly Microsoft Word. One particularly effective macro virus, called Melissa, was transmitted via email to a user’s address book. Eventually, Microsoft was able to block these types of viruses by making updates to their applications. By the late 1990’s, computer worms had stolen the spotlight from macro viruses. Ultimately, worms would cause billions of dollars in damages and launch computer security into the public eye.

If you missed Part 1 of the video chalk talk, click here.

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