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Computer Viruses - 20th Anniversary
By: MarkJ - 11 November, 2003 (9:40 AM)

Twenty years ago Fred Cohen, a US student studying for a PhD at the University of Southern California, created the first documented computer virus. Today the total stands at roughly 60,000, infecting systems the world over:

In the paper describing his work he defined a virus as "a program that can 'infect' other programs by modifying them to include a ... version of itself". Mr Cohen added his virus to a graphics program called VD that was written for a make of mini-computer called a Vax.

The virus hid inside VD and used the permissions users had to look at other parts of the Vax computer to spread around the system.

In all the tests carried out by Mr Cohen the virus managed to grab the right to reach any part of the system in less than an hour. The fastest time was five minutes. Mr Cohen presented his results to a security seminar on 10 November, 1983.

We hope that, as ISPs become increasingly geared up with server-side filters, viruses will be less able to propagate around the world using the Internet. More @ BBC News Online.

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