Computer viruses have been around for almost as long as computers themselves. They get the name “viruses” because of their ability to self-replicate, spread, and change the behavior of their host systems – a behavior eerily similar to a virus in a living organism. The first documented virus was called the “Creeper system” and was developed in 1971. It was designed to run on the DEC TENEX operating system, and the sum total of its “evil intent” was to display a message saying: “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!”
Viruses continued to be developed in this mostly benign manner for the next 30+ years. These earliest cyberbullies craved only peer notoriety for being the coder behind viruses that spread far and fast, and produced the desired high detection counts. These viruses were malicious because their victims incurred expenses to clean out the bugs – but that was about the extent of it.
In the late 2000s malware developers found ways to monetize their viruses. Fake antivirus software started popping up on screens, telling a user that his or her computer was infected; to remove it, they had to give a credit card number. But users soon figured out the charade and this approach proved unsustainable.