History of Computer Viruses from 70’s to 2024

History of Computer Viruses from 70's to 2024 -

The history of computer viruses is relatively short, but it was a rollercoaster, especially if you got infected in the 90’s. Remember? Computer viruses have existed for a while, most of which have been transmitted through the Internet or its earlier versions. Most viruses are created to steal user information, use their computer’s processing power, or turn off the system entirely.

The history of computer viruses is a fascinating journey that has significantly impacted the world of technology and cybersecurity. From the early days of the 90s, when viruses were relatively simple but disruptive to today’s sophisticated and complex malware, the evolution of computer viruses has been relentless.

As we delve into the timeline of computer viruses from the 70s to 2024, we’ll uncover the pivotal moments, notorious attacks, and the ongoing battle between cybercriminals and cybersecurity experts.

Join me as we explore the intriguing history of computer viruses and how they have shaped the digital landscape.

So, let’s dive right in!

A short history of computer viruses

YearVirus Name/EventSignificance
1971Creeper VirusOne of the first worms distributed via the internet led to the creation of the CERT/CC at Carnegie Mellon University.
1983Term’ ‘Virus’ Coined’Term ‘Virus’ Coined‘Term ‘Virus’ Coined’Term ‘Virus’ Coined
1986Brain VirusThe first PC virus in the wild; it infected the boot sector of storage media formatted with the DOS File Allocation Table (FAT) file system.
1988Morris WormOne of the first worms distributed via the internet, it led to the creation of the CERT/CC at Carnegie Mellon University.
1992Michelangelo Virus“Fred Cohen, a University of Southern California grad student, coined the term “computer virus”.”Fred Cohen, a University of Southern California grad student, coined the term “computer virus”.
1999Melissa VirusA mass-mailing macro virus, Melissa demonstrated the significant impact of email viruses.
2000ILOVEYOU VirusA computer worm that spread via email and file-sharing, causing widespread damage.
2003Slammer WormA fast-spreading worm that caused a massive denial of service on some internet hosts and dramatically slowed down general internet traffic.
2007Storm WormA Trojan horse program that began infecting thousands of computers via email spam.
2010StuxnetDiscovered in 2010 but likely released in 2009, Stuxnet was a sophisticated computer worm that targeted industrial systems, notably Iranian nuclear facilities.
2013CryptolockerA ransomware Trojan that encrypted files on infected Windows computers and demanded ransom for the decryption key.
2017WannaCryA ransomware attack that affected hundreds of thousands of computers across 150 countries, exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.

Here are these viruses and what you need to know about them, including the creator.

YearVirus Name/EventCreator(s)Significance
1971Creeper VirusBob ThomasConsidered one of the first computer viruses; it infected DEC PDP-10 computers running the TENEX operating system.
1982Elk ClonerRich SkrentaThe first virus to spread in the wild; it infected Apple II operating systems via floppy disk.
1986Brain VirusBasit & Amjad Farooq AlviThe first PC virus in the wild; it infected the boot sector of storage media with the DOS FAT file system.
1987Lehigh VirusUnknownInfected command.com files and was one of the first file viruses; it originated at Lehigh University.
1988Morris WormRobert Tappan MorrisOne of the first worms distributed via the internet, leading to the creation of the CERT/CC.
1989AIDS TrojanDr. Joseph PoppOne of the first examples of ransomware; it encrypted file names on the hard drive, demanding payment for decryption.
1992Michelangelo VirusUnknownGained attention for its activation date, Michelangelo’s birthday; it targeted DOS systems.
1999Melissa VirusDavid L. SmithA mass-mailing macro virus that caused widespread disruption and highlighted the impact of email viruses.
2000ILOVEYOU VirusOnel de GuzmanA destructive worm transmitted via email, causing billions in damages worldwide.
2001Code RedUnknownTargeted computers running Microsoft IIS web server, exploiting a buffer overflow problem in the system.
2003Slammer WormUnknownCaused a massive denial of service on internet hosts, significantly slowing down general internet traffic.
2004Sasser WormSven JaschanExploited a vulnerability in Windows 2000 and Windows XP, causing millions in damages.
2007Storm WormUnknownA Trojan horse spread via email spam, leading to a botnet used for various malicious activities.
2008ConfickerUnknownInfected millions of computers worldwide, including government, business, and home computers.
2010StuxnetAllegedly a joint effort by US and IsraelA sophisticated worm targeting industrial systems, notably Iranian nuclear facilities.
2013CryptolockerUnknownA ransomware Trojan that encrypted files on infected Windows computers, demanding a ransom for decryption.
2017WannaCryAllegedly hackers linked to North KoreaA ransomware attack exploiting a Microsoft Windows vulnerability, affecting hundreds of thousands of computers.
2019TrickBotUnknownA banking Trojan initially targeting financial data, later evolving to involve more modular malware.
2020EmotetUnknownOriginally a banking Trojan, it evolved into a major botnet used for various cybercrime activities.

100 most well-known computer viruses in history

History of Computer Viruses from 70's to 2024 -
  1. Creeper Virus (1971)
  2. Elk Cloner (1982)
  3. Brain (1986)
  4. Morris Worm (1988)
  5. ILOVEYOU (2000)
  6. Melissa (1999)
  7. Slammer/Sapphire (2003)
  8. Mydoom (2004)
  9. Stuxnet (2010)
  10. Conficker (2008)
  11. Code Red (2001)
  12. Flashback Trojan (2011)
  13. CryptoLocker (2013)
  14. Sasser (2004)
  15. Bagle Worm (2004)
  16. Blaster (2003)
  17. Nimda (2001)
  18. Storm Worm (2007)
  19. SoBig (2003)
  20. Zeus (2007)
  21. PoisonIvy (2005)
  22. Ramnit (2010)
  23. SQL Slammer (2003)
  24. Locky (2016)
  25. Duqu (2011)
  26. WannaCry (2017)
  27. Petya/NotPetya (2016)
  28. DarkTequila (2018)
  29. Mirai (2016)
  30. Triton (2017)
  31. Flame (2012)
  32. Heartbleed Bug (2014)
  33. Shamoon (2012)
  34. Klez (2001)
  35. GameOver Zeus (2011)
  36. Turla (2014)
  37. Ryuk (2018)
  38. TrickBot (2016)
  39. Ransomware WannaCry (2017)
  40. Emotet (2014)
  41. Bad Rabbit (2017)
  42. Dridex (2014)
  43. Tinba (2012)
  44. Ransomware GandCrab (2018)
  45. Carbanak (2015)
  46. Ransomware Cerber (2016)
  47. Cozy Bear (APT29) (2008)
  48. NotPetya (2017)
  49. APT1 (2013)
  50. Agent.btz (2008)
  51. NetSky and Sasser (2004)
  52. Goner (2001)
  53. Ransomware SamSam (2015)
  54. Bropia (2005)
  55. Koobface (2008)
  56. BlackShades (2010)
  57. Ransomware Reveton (2012)
  58. Operation Aurora (2009)
  59. Stoned (1987)
  60. R2D2 (German state trojan) (2011)
  61. Michelangelo (1991)
  62. ProLock (2020)
  63. QakBot (2007)
  64. Olympic Destroyer (2018)
  65. AIDS Trojan (1989)
  66. Tiny Banker Trojan (2012)
  67. Red October (2012)
  68. Uroburos (2014)
  69. Regin (2008)
  70. Ransomware TeslaCrypt (2015)
  71. Ransomware CTB-Locker (2014)
  72. Satana Ransomware (2016)
  73. Ransomware LockScreen (2011)
  74. Lurk Banking Trojan (2012)
  75. CryptoWall (2014)
  76. Virus.Win9x.CIH (1998)
  77. Beast Trojan (2002)
  78. Alureon (2008)
  79. Mocmex (2008)
  80. Bancos (2003)
  81. Sobig.F (2003)
  82. Lehigh (1987)
  83. Bugbear (2002)
  84. Anna Kournikova (2001)
  85. Stoned.Angelina (1994)
  86. Magistr (2001)
  87. Y2K Bug (1999)
  88. FunLove (1999)
  89. Ikee (2009)
  90. Form (1990)
  91. Tequila (1991)
  92. Bliss (1997)
  93. Sircam (2001)
  94. Monkey (1994)
  95. Chernobyl (1998)
  96. W32.Sasser.B (2004)
  97. Storm Worm (2007)
  98. Pikachu Virus (2000)
  99. W32/Netsky-P (2004)
  100. LoveLetter (2000)

This list represents some of the most significant, notorious, and innovative viruses, worms, and malware that have shaped the landscape of cyber threats and cybersecurity responses.

The Dawn of Digital Mischiefs: Viruses in the Early 90s

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The Michelangelo Panic

The early 90s saw the birth of computer viruses, and the digital landscape was forever altered. One such significant event was the Michelangelo virus, named after the famed Renaissance artist.

I remember the panic caused by media outlets reporting doomsday scenarios and computer users rushing to protect their systems.

The virus was set to activate on March 6, the birthday of Michelangelo, and was programmed to corrupt the hard drives of infected computers. This scare revealed the vulnerabilities of the emerging digital world and highlighted the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures.

Concept Virus

Another notable creation from this era was the Concept virus, which exploited the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macro language in Microsoft Word. It spreads through infected documents, taking advantage of users’ trust in files received from known sources.

This pioneering virus signaled the shift towards social engineering tactics, using human behavior as a vector for infection. The Concept virus paved the way for future malware relying on duping individuals rather than solely targeting technical vulnerabilities.

For further information on the Michelangelo virus and its impact, visit History of Computer Viruses .

For a detailed overview of the Concept virus and its implications, refer to The Concept Virus: A Groundbreaking Milestone

The Late 90s: A Hotbed for Computer Viruses

In the late 90s, computer viruses experienced a significant surge, becoming a prevalent concern for individuals and businesses. This era witnessed several notable virus outbreaks, with the Melissa and Love Letter viruses at the forefront of causing widespread damage.

The Melissa Virus Outbreak

The Melissa virus, unleashed in March 1999, quickly propagated via email, causing massive disruptions. Disguised as an essential document, the virus enticed unsuspecting recipients to open the attachment, triggering its rapid dissemination. This event marked a pivotal moment, highlighting the vulnerability of email systems and the potential for severe consequences when exploited by malicious entities.

The Love Letter That Spread Hate

“In May 2000, the”Love Bu” or”ILOVEYOU” virus wreaked havoc globally, infecting millions of computers. Disguised as a love letter, the virus enticed individuals to open the email attachment, releasing its destructive payload.

The Love Bug virus served as a wake-up call, exposing users’ susceptibility to social engineering tactics and the dire need for heightened cybersecurity measures.”In May 2000, the “Love Bug” or “ILOVEYOU” virus wreaked havoc globally, infecting millions of computers. Disguised as a love letter, the virus enticed individuals to open the email attachment, releasing its destructive payload.

The Love Bug virus served as a wake-up call, exposing users’ susceptibility to social engineering tactics and the dire need for heightened cybersecurity measures.

The Rise of Email as a Virus Vehicle

The late 90s also saw the rapid expansion of email as a primary vehicle for virus transmission. Cyber attackers capitalized on the growing reliance on email communication, exploiting its widespread usage to propagate viruses. This shift marked a pivotal moment in the evolution of cyber threats, emphasizing the need for robust email security protocols and user awareness to combat the escalating risk of virus-laden emails.

The New Millennium and the Evolution of Threats

As the new millennium approached, the threat landscape for computer viruses evolved significantly. This era witnessed the emergence of highly impactful and widespread threats, showcasing the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks.

Code Red and Nimda

The early 2000s saw the emergence of Code Red and Nimda, two notorious computer worms that exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s operating systems. Code Red, which first appeared in 2001, caused widespread damage by infecting servers and defacing websites. Shortly after, Nimda spread rapidly through email and network shares, making it one of the fastest-spreading worms. The dual impact of these threats emphasized the need for more robust cybersecurity measures in the face of rapidly evolving attack methods.

SQL Slammer

In 2003, the SQL Slammer worm disrupted critical internet infrastructure by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft SQL Server. Its rapid propagation caused widespread outages, impacting essential services and highlighting the potential for targeted attacks on crucial systems.

Blaster and Sobig

The same year they witnessed the emergence of Blaster and Sobig, two malware variants that targeted Microsoft Windows systems. Blaster exploited a vulnerability in the Windows operating system, causing widespread infections and disrupting network communications.

On the other hand, Sobig spreads through email, utilizing social engineering tactics to deceive users and propagate its malicious payload.


In 2004, the Mydoom worm became one of the fastest-spreading email worms, demonstrating the growing influence of social engineering tactics in spreading malware. Mydoom’s impact reverberated across the internet, highlighting the evolving strategies employed by cybercriminals to maximize the reach and impact of their malicious creations.

The convergence of these threats in the early years of the new millennium underscored the escalating sophistication and impact of computer viruses, prompting a growing recognition of the need for proactive cybersecurity measures in an increasingly connected world.

The Mid-2000s: A Shift Towards Stealth and Sophistication

During the mid-2000s, the landscape of cyber threats took a transformative turn, with cyber adversaries shifting towards more sophisticated and stealthy tactics.

This era witnessed the emergence of botnets and a wave of concern surrounding rootkit infections, signifying a new level of technical prowess and covert operation within the realm of cybercrime.

The Era of Botnets

The mid-2000s saw the rise of botnets, a network of interconnected computers infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the users’ knowledge.

Cybercriminals leveraged botnets to orchestrate large-scale attacks, distribute spam, launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and steal sensitive information. These networks of compromised devices became a powerful tool for cyber adversaries, allowing them to carry out coordinated and widespread assaults while concealing their identities and evading detection.

The Rootkit Scare

Around the same time, the proliferation of rootkits instilled fear and uncertainty in the cybersecurity community. Rootkits, a type of malware designed to conceal the presence of malicious software on an infected system, posed a severe challenge to detection and eradication efforts.

These stealthy tools enabled cybercriminals to gain privileged access to systems and maintain persistent control, often undetected by traditional security measures.

The rootkit scare was a stark reminder of the evolving sophistication of cyber threats and the pressing need for advanced defensive strategies.

The proliferation of botnets and the prevalence of rootkit infections underscored a significant shift in the tactics and capabilities of cyber adversaries during the mid-2000s. As the threat landscape continued to evolve, these developments laid the groundwork for the increasingly intricate and covert methods employed by cybercriminals in the pursuit of their malicious objectives.

The 2010s: Ransomware Reigns Supreme

Ransomware emerged as a formidable threat during the 2010s, revolutionizing the cybercrime landscape and eliciting significant concern among security professionals. This era witnessed the rise of sophisticated ransomware variants that were expertly designed to infiltrate and encrypt sensitive data within various organizations.

The Game Changer

The proliferation of ransomware as a service (RaaS) marked a pivotal shift in the cybercrime ecosystem. This commercialized model facilitated the emergence of professional ransomware syndicates and operators, leading to a surge in the frequency and severity of attacks. The evolution of RaaS engendered a more significant presence of initial access brokers (IABs) in attacks, resulting in an extended dwell time for ransomware victims.


One of this period’s most notorious ransomware attacks was the global outbreak of WannaCry in 2017. Exploiting vulnerabilities in outdated Windows systems, WannaCry spread rapidly across the globe, causing widespread disruption and financial losses. The sheer scale of the attack underscored the far-reaching impact and destructive potential of ransomware.


Similarly, the NotPetya cyberattack in 2017 demonstrated the catastrophic consequences of ransomware. Disguised as ransomware, NotPetya was engineered to cause maximum disruption, targeting critical infrastructure and major multinational corporations. Its rapid propagation and devastating impact highlighted the urgency of fortifying defenses against such malicious threats.

The prevalence of ransomware in the 2010s underscored the imperative for organizations to fortify their cybersecurity posture and implement robust measures to mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks.

The Early 2020s: Cybersecurity in a Connected World

The early 2020s marked a period of significant cybersecurity challenges in a world increasingly reliant on interconnected digital systems.

The surge of COVID-19-themed cyber attacks exploited the vulnerabilities brought about by the pandemic. Malicious actors launched phishing campaigns, malware attacks, and misinformation efforts, taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding the global health crisis.

The Surge of COVID-19 Themed Cyber Attacks

These attacks targeted individuals, businesses, and government institutions. Cybercriminals impersonated health organizations, offering false information about the virus to lure victims into clicking on malicious links or downloading harmful attachments. The objective was to compromise sensitive data, disrupt operations, and spread chaos during a challenging time.

SolarWinds Hack

The SolarWinds hack revealed the extent of the vulnerability of interconnected systems. Sophisticated threat actors breached SolarWinds’ software, compromising the supply chain and infiltrating numerous organizations, including government agencies and major corporations. This incident underscored the need for robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard against supply chain attacks and advanced persistent threats.

The Growth of AI-Driven Cybersecurity

Amid these escalating threats, the cybersecurity landscape saw the growth of AI-driven cybersecurity solutions. Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies were increasingly employed to analyze vast amounts of data, detect anomalies, and respond to threats in real-time.

These advancements aimed to enhance proactive defense measures, enabling organizations to adapt effectively to the evolving threat landscape.

As we delved into a world intricately connected through digital networks, cybersecurity challenges and innovations in the early 2020s set the stage for continued evolution in combating cyber threats.

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The Present and Future: 2023-2024

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and as we step into 2024, it’s crucial to remain vigilant about emerging threats and technological advancements.

From the rise of deepfakes in cyber attacks to the potential impact of quantum computing and the continuous importance of cyber hygiene, the coming year is poised to be both challenging and exciting.

The Rise of Deepfakes in Cyber Attacks

Deepfakes, which involve using AI to create hyper-realistic forgeries, have become a growing concern in cyber security. These sophisticated manipulations can deceive individuals and automated systems, posing a significant threat to data integrity and personal privacy. As we move forward, staying informed about detecting and preventing deepfakes will be essential in safeguarding against malicious attacks.

Quantum Computing

The advent of quantum computing brings the promise of unprecedented processing power, capable of solving complex problems at a speed surpassing classical computers.

While this represents a monumental technological leap forward, it raises concerns about its potential application in breaking current encryption standards. As quantum computing advances, the need to develop quantum-resistant cryptographic methods becomes increasingly urgent to maintain data security.

The Importance of Cyber Hygiene

Amidst these technological advancements and evolving threats, the fundamental principles of cyber hygiene remain as crucial as ever.

Good cyber hygiene involves implementing robust security measures, staying updated on software patches, using strong passwords, and being mindful of phishing attempts. Educating ourselves and our peers about cyber hygiene is pivotal in fortifying our defense against cyber attacks.

In the face of these developments, vigilance, adaptability, and a proactive approach to cyber security will be essential in navigating the complex landscape of digital threats and innovations.


The evolution of computer viruses from the 90s to 2024 showcases the increasing complexity and severity of cyber threats. As technology advances, so do the tactics of cyber attackers, emphasizing the critical importance of robust cybersecurity measures.

Understanding the history of computer viruses provides valuable insights into the ongoing battle between malicious actors and the defenders of digital security. Individuals and organizations need to stay vigilant, adapt to new threats, and invest in proactive cybersecurity strategies to mitigate the risks posed by modern computer viruses.

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