From Computers to Smartphones: Cybersecurity and Mobile

The origins of computer viruses and cybersecurity.

By on October 24, 2012

The creation of the Internet has brought about tremendous innovation. It allows businesses and families to share information almost instantly and provides users with a nearly endless source of information on every subject imaginable. But with those positives also come some negatives, such as new opportunities for cybercriminals and computer viruses.

Computer viruses affect millions of users today despite the availability of antivirus software and other security measures. It may be surprising to some that the history of viruses and cybersecurity is actually much older than the Internet.

The first computer virus was created in 1971 by Robert Thomas and his team at BBN, now Raytheon BBN. Known as “Creeper,” the program had no malicious intent but was instead an experiment to test bringing computer applications from one machine to the next. Creeper jumped from one computer to another on a network, writing “I’m the Creeper. Catch me if can!” on the screen. The program was so effective that the team who invented the first virus also had to invent the first antivirus, “Reaper,” which tracked down Creeper and wiped it from affected computers on the network.

Computer networking evolved to the Internet in the 1990s, bringing cybercriminals closer to consumers. By the end of the decade and into the early 2000s, viruses flourished and consumers needed security solutions for their home computers. Software suites offered full-scale protection for the home network and personal computer.

Today, viruses are still an issue on PCs and they are making the leap to smartphones and tablets. Tablet adoption nearly doubled in 2012 and the number of smartphones owners continues to grow. Internet usage on mobile devices is growing, too. And, cybercriminals are already using proven methods to compromise smartphone and tablets. New solutions, such as the Mobile Security app, have been created to protect mobile devices. The app allows users to remotely locate, alarm, lock and even wipe out data from a misplaced or lost device.

The BBN experiment foreshadowed a future where every virus would need an antivirus to protect networked computers. While millions of people have suffered attacks from worms, Trojan Horses and other viruses on PCs, protecting our smartphones and tablets may be a matter of learning from history.