Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nov. 10, 1983: Computer 'Virus' Is Born

Kim Zetter writes on Wired:

Fred Cohen, a University of Southern California graduate student, gives a prescient peek at the digital future when he demonstrates a computer virus during a security seminar at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. A quarter-century later, computer viruses have become a pandemic for which there’s no inoculation.

Cohen inserted his proof-of-concept code into a Unix command, and within five minutes of launching it onto a mainframe computer, had gained control of the system. In four other demonstrations, the code managed to seize control within half an hour on average, bypassing all of the security mechanisms current at the time. It was Cohen’s academic adviser, Len Adleman (the A in RSA Security), who likened the self-replicating program to a virus, thus coining the term.

But Cohen’s malware wasn’t the first of its kind.

Others had theorized about self-replicating programs that could spread from computer to computer, and a couple of tinkerers had already successfully launched their own digital infections prior to Cohen’s presentation. But his proof-of-concept program put computer scientists on notice about the potential scourge of an intentionally malicious attack.

Much more here.

Note: I know Dr. Cohen both personally & professionally, and he looks just a tad different today. :-)


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