Malware descriptions

Michelangelo: the first ‘media’ virus

In these days of major outbreaks that sweep the globe in hours or, at worst, minutes, we’ve become accustomed to the media spotlight on malware. These are also days when most computer users have some idea what a virus, worm or Trojan is [even if their understanding is sometimes limited]. So it’s perhaps worth recalling a time when this was not the case.

Michelangelo was the first virus to draw serious media attention, in March 1992. One reason for this was its destructive payload [on 6 March, the anniversary of Michelangelo’s birth, it destroyed data on the victim’s hard disk]. Another was the ‘doom and gloom’ predictions circulating at the time about the virus. One US anti-virus company went so far as to predict that data on five million PCs would be destroyed. As it turned out, less than 10,000 PCs lost data as a result of Michelangelo.

As a by-product of this ‘media sensation’, many more PC users began to take the virus threat seriously. Paradoxically, many users who bought anti-virus software out of fear for Michelangelo found that they were not infected by this virus … but they were infected with others.

Michelangelo: the first ‘media’ virus

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