Malware Museum showcases vintage viruses

Malware may have racked up costs to the tune of billions in the past, but computer viruses in the 1980s and 1990s were also pieces of art.

At least that is the view of Mikko Hermanni Hyppönen, chief resource officer at Finnish security firm F-secure, who has recently unveiled an online archive of the most colourful – and provocative – malware to have wreaked havoc during the DOS-era.

The collection of some 80 samples of old viruses shows a sharp contrast with modern malware. The cyber-fossils on display in the museum hark back to an era where code executed in your browser would interrupt work, fiddle with colours and text on screens, and write snarky messages.

Hyppönen’s says of his online malware collection: “Once they infected a system, they would sometimes show animation or messages that you had been infected. Through the use of emulations, and additionally removing any destructive routines within the viruses, this collection allows you to experience virus infection of decades ago with safety.”

Among the many examples is Casino, discovered in 1991.

Once a machine was infected, Casino would remove all files from the infected computer’s hard drive and challenge the user to play a slot machine game. If you managed to hit the jackpot, you would get to keep your data intact. But if you lost, Casino would berate you with the following message – “You asshole. Say bye to your balls…” before it deleted your data forever.

While these early viruses affected only the systems they infected, malware today is much more sophisticated aiming at theft of personal and financial information. Malware today is also less daring – attempting to go undetected by users – while they grab as much data as possible.

Click here to see the online Malware Museum.

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