Robert Morris’s Internet Worm of 1988 was the biggest news in virus history for several years. Until 1992, most virus news was much quieter.
In 1989, for example, Ghostball was released. This was the first virus able to attack different kinds of targets. Before Ghostball, viruses were classified by their attack, like “file infector” or “boot sector virus.” Ghostball was the first Multipartite virus, because it could follow several attack patterns.
In 1990, a programmer named Mark Washburn demonstrated a Polymorphic virus.called 1260. This virus could actually change the structure of it’s own code—meaning, every time it infected a new system, it looked different while doing the same thing. In effect, this kind of virus “hides” from anti-virus software by wearing disguises.
Michelangelo was the first virus to achieve stardom. It was discovered in 1991, and was predicted to cause incredible amounts of damage when it reached it’s trigger date, March 6th, 1992 (March 6th is Michelangelo’s birthday). If an infected system is booted on March 6th, the virus will erase the hard drive. Despite doomsday warnings made by the press and the antivirus industry of “at least five million infected systems at risk,” only about 10,000-20,000 computers worldwide were hit by the virus.
The Concept virus was discovered in 1995. Concept is short for “Proof of Concept,” and it was designed to show how viruses could be written in the macro language programmed into Microsoft Word. By 2004, roughly 75% of all viruses are macro viruses.
The CIH virus, later renamed “Chernobyl,” appeared in 1998. This was a very damaging virus that was not only programmed to erase hard drives but also tried to erase BIOS chips. For the first time in history, a virus had managed to actually damage the hardware it was running on. Fortunately, CIH wasn’t very good at it, and only damaged a handful of systems.