Happy Birthday, Jerk: First PC Virus Born 25 Years Ago

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Has it been 25 years already? Jump in the Wayback Machine and check out this TIME article that details the first ever PC virus.

Brothers Amjad and Basit Alvi of Lahore, Pakistan ran a neighborhood computer shop specializing in PC repair and software sales. After Amjad caught wind that one of the programs he’d written was being pirated, he leaked copies containing “a self-replicating program that would ‘infect’ an unauthorized user’s computer, disrupt his operations and force him to contact Amjad for repairs,” according to the article.

And with that, the first PC virus was born. It was January of 1986.

The irony is that the Alvi brothers were selling pirated software themselves—programs that “cost several hundred dollars in the U.S., for as little as $1.50 each.” And they even laced some of the pirated copies of the software they were selling with viruses as well—but only software sold to foreigners.

Per the article:

“When Pakistanis came in for, say, Lotus 1-2-3, they were sold clean, uncontaminated copies. But foreigners, particularly Americans, were given virus-ridden versions. Why the special treatment for outsiders? The brothers’ somewhat confused rationalization hinges on a loophole in Pakistani law. According to Basit, copyright protection in Pakistan does not extend to computer software. Therefore, he says, it is not illegal for local citizens to trade in bootleg disks; technically, they are not engaged in software piracy. Then why infect American buyers? ‘Because you are pirating,’ says Basit. ‘You must be punished.'”

Nice, huh?

As an interesting note, the original TIME article contains a quote by “John McAfee of the InterPath computer company.”

McAfee said, “This virus is elegant. I don’t admire what he did, but I admire the way he did it. He may be the best virus designer the world has ever seen.” The article was written in 1988, shortly before McAfee left to work full time for his side project, McAfee Associates, which would eventually go on to develop some of the most popular antivirus software in the world.

[via CIO.com]

More on TIME.com:

Technology: You Must Be Punished

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