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This Day in History

World History

Sunday, January 19, 1986. :   The first known computer virus for PCs is released.

     A computer virus is a program that is able to replicate itself and spread from computer to computer, usually without detection. The first known computer virus on the PC platform was a boot sector virus nicknamed 'Brain', after the company in which the idea was conceived. As a boot sector virus, it infected the first sector of floppy disks as they were inserted into an infected computer. Its main effect was to change the volume label of the disk to read "©Brain". It spread via floppy disks, as the Internet did not exist in its current form when 'Brain' was first developed.

'Brain' was created by the Amjad Farooq Alvi and Basit Farooq Alvi in Lahore, Pakistan. It was initially released on 19 January 1986, but not finalised until September of that year. The virus was designed as an experiment to explore the security issues of the Operating System the Farooq Alvi brothers were using for their software. The virus did not destroy data, but detected if there was available space in the floppy disk to accommodate the virus. Encoded within the virus was the address of the company, as well as the names, addresses and phone numbers of the Farooq Alvi Brothers. Consequently, the brothers received phone calls whenever the virus was detected, and they were able to detect how piracy had spread their software and, with it, the virus.

In a 2011 interview with Mikko Hypponen of FSecure, the Farooq Alvi Brothers revealed they never meant the virus for harm. While they do not regret their experiment, they regret the harm that modern viruses do, and regard the programming of such viruses as criminal activity

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