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Computer Viruses. History, Reasons and Effects on Society

Essay 2002 8 Seiten

Anglistik - Kultur und Landeskunde



1. Abstracts

2. Computer Viruses: History, Reasons and Effects on Society

3. Bibliography

1. Abstracts

Since the beginning of the internet age in the early 1980s, people have not merely been concerned with keeping the internet free from viruses. In point of fact, some people wreak havoc on the internet by creating and spreading nasty and disastrous computer viruses. Hence, the so-called hackers[1] cause mayhem and destruction in the net. It is a fact that computer viruses cause great damage because they can pass from one computer to another like a biological virus, thus infecting the system.

Hence, a computer virus can be regarded as the undesirable embodiment of human intelligence to interrupt and to create a vacuum in the constant flow of internet information. What is more, the history of the computer virus is laced with the human need to be recognized. Thus, many research projects show that the majority of virus creators crave public acknowledgement. However, there are many other reasons why people try to spread computer viruses. Nonetheless, all hackers can be seen as dangerous and harmful, being indifferent to the consequences of spreading viruses to themselves and to others.

In the following, I will concentrate on the phenomenon of computer viruses. Therefore, I will focus on the reasons why computer viruses were brought to life, discussing the history of the computer virus and the effects it has taken on our society. It is a fact that hackers not only use viruses, worms[2] and Trojan horses[3] to cause a loss of information but also to gain control over remote systems and the information stored on these systems. For this reason, I will not only concentrate on the way the virus affects our everyday life but also on the effects it has in the business sector.

2. Computer Viruses: History, Reasons and Effects on Society

In the late 1980s, with the beginning of the internet age, traditional computer viruses were mostly first seen. There are some reasons why they came about at that time. The first and the most important reason was the spread of personal computers. In fact, PCs became very popular in the 1980s and thus became very common in homes, businesses and college campuses.[4] Hence, the personal computer has nearly become omnipotent.

Another reason that led to the evolution of computer viruses in the late 1980s was the use of bulletin boards on the computer.[5] As bulletin board systems became quite popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, more viruses were created to infect popularly traded software. Thus, bulletin boards primarily led to what is today known as the so-called Trojan horse.[6] The third reason why computer viruses came about at that time was most definitely the use of the floppy disk. As programs were still very small at the end of the 1980s, all kind of data could be fit on a single floppy disk and transferred to other computers. Hence, viruses could also be transmitted from one PC to another via floppy disk.

Thus, in 1986 one of the first computer viruses ever written, “The Brain”, was released by the brothers Basit and Amjad Farooq Alvi in Lahore, Pakistan.[7] What is more, since Robert Morris unleashed a worm that invaded ARPANET computers, experts have tried to make economic as well as ethical and moral sense of the event. The small program that Morris created disabled about 6,000 computers on the network by flooding their memory banks with copies of itself. According to A. Ross this virus and other similar attacks on the internet has helped “to generate a moral panic that has all but transformed everyday “computer culture””.[8]


[1] “Hacker“ is the informal expression for a person who tries to gain access to the contents of a computer’s memory without permission.

[2] A worm is a piece of software that makes copies of itself by using computer networks and security flaws. In other words, a worm replicates itself to a computer using the security flaw and then begins replicating. Cf. Computer virus.

[3] A Trojan horse is simply a computer program that pretends to do one thing but actually causes damage to the computer when it is started. In contrast to a worm, a Trojan horse cannot replicate automatically. Cf. ibid.

[4] It is a fact that prior to the 1980s PCs were very rare and thus nearly non-existent. The computers that some people did have at home were mostly toys. Cf. Computer viruses, p. 2.

[5] People could easily download all sorts of different programs from a bulletin board. Most popular were games. Cf. ibid.

[6] Cf. note 3.

[7] Cf. Computer viruses, p. 2 and Brian Krebs. A Short History of Computer Viruses and Attacks.

[8] Andrew Ross. Hacking away at the Counterculture.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
420 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Universität Hamburg – Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Computer Viruses History Reasons Effects Society



Titel: Computer Viruses. History, Reasons and Effects on Society