Neophyte malware

GCN AT 25 | Computer virus alerts of old can leave one with a nostalgic feeling

Advances in computer technology have been so rapid that you don't have to look far back to find much ballyhooed systems that seem quaint today ' such as the lightning-fast 33 MHz PCs for only $3,000 or so (1991). Likewise, computer virus alerts of old can leave one with a nostalgic feeling, particularly when considered against the virulent varmints now lurking in cyberspace.

For example, the Oct. 2, 1989, edition of GCN contained a front-page story about the National Institute of Standards and Technology's fears of an attack from the 'Columbus Day' virus, also known as Datacrime I, Datacrime II (a variant) and 'Friday the 13th,' because it was expected to hit on or after Oct. 13. It was 1989, so the concern was about the virus spreading through disks rather than the Internet, which itself has a horse-and-buggy ring to it. But NIST's advice for fending off the attack was specific: Check the size of files with .com and .exe extensions, because Datacrime I files would grow by either 1,168 bytes or 1,280 bytes, and Datacrime II files would grow by 1,514 bytes. Exactly. If found, isolate the file, set the date to Oct. 13 or after and watch for a notice that the virus was activated. This was serious business but, looking back, seemingly simple. Those were the days, my friends.

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