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20th Anniversary of Michelangelo Virus Scare

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the all-the-turtles-feared-dead dept.

Security 92

An anonymous reader writes "It's twenty years since the first big virus scare. According to security blogger Graham Cluley, who has written up his memories of the hard disk wiping virus, John McAfee predicted that around 5 million computers would be zapped by the virus on March 6th 1992. Of course, the truth was nothing like as bad — but the antivirus business was plagued forevermore by accusations of fear-mongering."

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Linux virus is scarier (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39261719)

The "Linux" virus is scarier. It tenets your computer worthless and you become a sniveling freetard.

Re:Linux virus is scarier (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261859)

It tenets your computer worthless

Say again?

Re:Linux virus is scarier (1)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262095)

I'm guessing 'renders' after an autocorrect/faceroll attempt at spelling to get a first comment...

Re:Linux virus is scarier (1)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261909)

What is this, I don't even

Now I feel old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39261723)

That doesn't seem so long ago.

Re:Now I feel old (2)

Tx (96709) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261821)

I feel even older - I don't remember it.

Re:Now I feel old (2)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262271)

I remember it, but reading 20 years ago in 1992 makes me feel old, 92 really doesn't seem like it was 20 years ago to me.

So... (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39265683)

Your memory is fine, it is just your math skills that have rusted with age?

Mind you, I know what you mean. It is even worse when you talk about a date like this and some kid pipes up that he was born that year. It REALLY gets bad if they claim they hadn't been born yet. Mind you, they got it easy, after mentioning that, they will NEVER have to worry about being as old as I am now. Not if they get within reach of my cane.

Re:So... (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 2 years ago | (#39265769)

Please explain why you say my math skills are rusty?

Re:Now I feel old (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269883)

I feel even older - I don't remember it.

They say memory is the 2nd thing to go.

Re:Now I feel old (1)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261869)

Seems more like deja vu. Wasn't Symantec given a pasting in the courts recently for distributing scareware?

technically (4, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261725)

They'd have been plagued by claims of fear-mongering with or without this incident since they do it chronically.

Re:technically (4, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261799)

Back then, I attributed the minimization of effect was due in large part to the publicity. People took precautionary measures. Same as the Y2K problem. It got so much press that people actually took action.

Was it extreme / over the top? Probably, but news has been about sensationalism for a while -- that's how they attract viewers which in turn attracts advertising dollars. But without the hype, people wouldn't have taken action and the problem would have been worse.

Re:technically (3, Interesting)

NecroBones (513779) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262201)

I really feel it was a combination. It was dramatically over-hyped, but at the same time that did serve to increase awareness and thus diminish the overall impact, much like the Y2K issue as mentioned.

The article correctly calls it a panic, IMHO.

I think also the virus was much less effective than people realized for a few important reasons:

1. Back then people were a lot less likely to have the internal clock set properly on their computers.

2. When and if the payload would trigger, the virus would eliminate itself. Much like a biological virus, if it kills the host, it ruins its chances for further infections.

Of course I found it amusing that some of the more interesting viruses saw a lot less press. Such as "Casino", which would trash your disk's system area, but it would restore it from a backup in RAM if you could win in the slot-machine game it popped up. That's much more evil and amusing. :)

Re:technically (3, Insightful)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262331)

My favorite virus was the Pong virus. I kept an infected 5 1/4" floppy for the longest time. The original versions didn't to anything overly terrible, but each additional infection caused a new ball to appear. []

Computers were so much more fun when people weren't malicious.

Re:technically (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264707)

That was a malicious virus. Perhaps it was supposed to be fun/funny, but it crashed machines, and was non-trivial at the time to get rid of.

Re:technically (1)

hurfy (735314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39265027)

The article says it wouldnt work on a XT class computer. Didn't know that. Now i am tempted to go turn on my old XT tonight and see...never did get it disinfected :)

(tough to fix when it refuses to boot from a floppy instead of HD)

I think the intial copy came with some used equipment after the the intial scare from a big facility so not everyone panicked (enough)
I've got an extra infected floppies if you have something that can still use a 360k disk :O

If anyone can point me to a copy of the virus removal he talks about... :) I assume that fits on 360k floppy, my old AV doesn't :/

Say, Staples says they do virus removal....

Re:technically (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262867)

Back then, I attributed the minimization of effect was due in large part to the publicity. People took precautionary measures. Same as the Y2K problem. It got so much press that people actually took action.

My father did a programming contract for the Bank of Canada in 1984, to update their systems to be capable of holding a 4-digit year. They, like many banks, did it because 25-year loans (say, for a mortgage) would have already been impacted by the Y2K bug in 1985. I think if you do a little digging, you'll find that all of the mission-critical systems had been updated to be Y2K complaint *long* before the media ever heard that it was a problem. Kind of like the Y2038 problem in Unix... everybody knows that the problem exists, and pretty much everybody is already running a system that won't be affected by it, even though it's not supposed to land until 26 years from now.

BTW, the was an easy way to get rid of Michelangelo, back in the day: boot from a clean OS install disk, and type "FDISK /MBR".

Bullshit (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263899)

Bullshit. Sorry, there is no nice way to put it, but the scare mongering was pure, weapons-grade bullshit.

The REAL problems with any actual critical systems had been readily apparent to any company who would do any kind of forecasting or planning or had any contracts (including any loans given or taken) extending into the future. Even something as non-critical as import-export companies for packaging, or travel agencies or whatever, I know people actually working for them and they were aware at the very least in January 1999 (though most even earlier,) when forecast data or contracts extending in the next year started having problems. I actually know people working for such companies and NONE were waiting for the hype to convince them. As soon as the first report showed up as "uh, it says we'll achieve our goals if we get, uh, minus two thousand dollars a month in sales until 1900", some boss said, "fix the fucking thing NOW."

Meanwhile things were hyped as needing an urgent fix, that had no problem whatsoever. Network CABLES and speakers were hyped as Y2K Compliant, when, seriously, they didn't even have a calendar in them or anything. Scammers made off with billions from the rest of the economy, in upgrades for things that didn't need upgrading, and replacements for things that didn't need replacing.

THAT was what the shameless hype did: help some scammers milk the rest of the economy of money that would have been better spent elsewhere. Anyone who took part in spreading that scare, THAT is what they helped achieve: help some parasites loot the rest of society.

And it didn't even stop there. Things were hyped as going to bring civilization down, like street lights or car electronics which (especially in 1999) didn't even hold the date anywhere and had no use for it, AND which nobody could afford to just yank out and replace wholesale. Yet hordes of shameless snake oil vendors and their PR toadies were hammering non-stop on the idea that OMG, unless your city is blowing its whole budget on their snake oil, come next year all car traffic will halt, airplanes will come crashing down from the sky, and apparently grocery stores will stay closed because everyone is too stupid to figure they still need to go to work if their electronic watch locks up in 2000. It was stuff that wasn't going to get "fixed", not just because it wasn't broken in the first place, but also because nobody was rich AND retarded enough to yank out and replace every single streetlight control module like that. The hype just kept people's fears high, and even tried to amplify them some more, just in case it results in some sale anyway, although chances were 99% that it wouldn't.

The shameless snake oil vendors and the idiots who helped them spread the panic, were NOT actually doing anyone any problem. In fact if it were a just world, we'd put that kind of parasites out of our collective misery and be better off for it.

Meanwhile (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269867)

Meanwhile there were places with a spaghetti infrastructure so fragile that a nearby fart could take things down so Y2K was one of a pile of real threats. Australia's Telstra (former government telecommunications monopoly and still a monopoly on some bottlenecks) was one such example. Y2K was used as an excuse to actually fix some long outstanding IT problems, but of course only at a tiny amount of the total expenditure on the overlying "compliance" bullshit.
Of course that's a general reliability problem and Y2K was just the straw going onto a very overloaded camel, but there were some real if minor effects worth a small mention in a paper. The media hype was of course insane.
I've seen a Y2K bug as recently as 2008 in Macrovision's "flexlm" peice of licencing shit only designed to punish the honest. A new version decided that perpetual licences expired on 1 January 2000 so for about a week some relatively important software in my workplace was unusable while bug reports went back and forth between the vendor of the useful someware and the owners of "flexlm". The first support guy I talked to didn't have a clue what I was talking about when I mentioned Y2K. Perhaps that's a good measure as to it's real effect.

Re:technically (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264841)

Was it extreme / over the top? Probably, but news has been about sensationalism for a while

For a while? News has always been about sensationalism. In fact, it's quite tame today compared to 100 or so years ago. There was simply a short lull some decades ago when people actually wanted to be informed about what was going on.

You are right about the hype, though. If it hadn't been hyped, it would have been bad.

Re:technically (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261885)

They'd have been plagued by claims of fear-mongering with or without this incident since they do it chronically.

Unfortunately, in the 20 years since they've continued to be plagued by claims of fear-mongering and developed a reputation for parasitism and relative fecklessness against serious threats...

That's really the worst of it. The state of 'security' on the internet is pretty fucking dreadful. Atrocious all over the place; but the relatively low usefulness, and frequent commercial crassness, of the AV guys manage to still make them look like money-sucking fearmongers.

It Really Wasn't Fear Mongering (3, Interesting)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263001)

I was a student at the time and after hearing the news bits about Michelangelo, I found an early virus scanner that was capable of detecting it. I think it was McAfee but not 100% sure. I downloaded it and tested my computer and it was indeed infected.

I asked the virus scanner to remove it since it said it would/could and sure enough it did. The down side was that Michelangelo was a boot sector infector and removing the virus made the system unbootable and I didn't know how to repair that. End result for me was that March 6th came a bit early.

But I wanted to track down where the infection came from so scanned all my floppies. I only found it on a few of them but one of the ones I found it on was the driver disk that came with the motherboard I had recently used to build my system. I checked with some friends in the computer shop where I was at school and they didn't believe it could possibly be the driver disk - but as luck would have it, they had a similar new motherboard from the same manufacturer with a still-sealed driver disk marked the same as mine.

After making sure all was clean, they broke the seal on the driver disk and scanned it. Positive for Michelangelo.

I don't remember the manufacturer name but wish I did. But the thing was that Michelangelo was being spread with driver disks from this one manufacturer and maybe others. No idea for how long.

I think sounding the alarm on viruses is the better path. I know some people tune it out and happily believe that they have never had an infection, but the reality now is that the people writing them don't announce their presence if they can help it. It's not about showing off. It's about money and how much of people's the criminals can snatch.

Re:technically (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263375)

Unfortunately it seems to work. Around 2009/2010 Norton mostly stopped nagging the user with trivial "omfg some bastard set a cookie on your pc!!!" type messages and just quietly got on with its job. Apparently it didn't sell too well though because by 2011 the scary pop-ups were back.

Scared an uneducated public (4, Interesting)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261843)

And right at the beginning of public awareness of the internet age meant that people were panicking and incredibly misinformed.

News reports said the virus was transmitted over the phone lines (dial up internet) and suggested turning off potentially infected machines on the day of as a precaution. My father took this to mean he should unplug his answering machine that day because it had a computer chip that timestamped messages and other nifty features. In his mind, computer chip + telephone line = susceptible to the virus.

Everyone was touting the Information Superhighway at the time, but no one knew what it was, and very few people actually understood the risk a virus could pose. The media drummed up scare stories (just like those nightly investigations into some obscure not-really-dangerous thing) and the uneducated public took the bait. I'm not going to put the blame on the AV manufacturers for this one.

Al Gore here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39262293)

Everyone was touting the Information Superhighway at the time, but no one knew what it was

I invented the damn thing, you insensitive clod.

Re:Scared an uneducated public (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39262399)

We left our PC unplugged that day. The news had said or at least implied that the virus was spread over power lines, so even a computer that was off but still plugged in would be infected.

Re:Scared an uneducated public (2)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262523)

And right at the beginning of public awareness of the internet age meant that people were panicking and incredibly misinformed.

I bet we're all glad they got over THAT.

Oh, shit. BRB. There's a pedophile on my hard drive.

Re:Scared an uneducated public (3, Insightful)

pinfall (2430412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263581)

And right at the beginning of public awareness of the internet age meant that people were panicking and incredibly misinformed.

I bet we're all glad they got over THAT.

Oh, shit. BRB. There's a pedophile on my hard drive.

Thank you. We have tracked your ip over freenet and updated your buddy list. Keyloggers and screenshot security features have been installed for your protection. All of your files have been moved to the cloud so you can share them more enthusiastically.
We have also cleaned your system of any viruses and trojans.

You do not need to be concerned about viruses any more. You are in our protective embrace.
Your Government

and how many fortunes were built on it? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269733)

McAfee would go on to found 'PowWow' one of the first chat clients, which had a fascinatingly bizarre "fake native american" shell corporation running it.

Paula Giese, what we would call a 'blogger' these days, wrote an extensive expose on the situation. Of course, she died of some obscure disease, and McAfee went on to live a long and happy life, part of which consisted of becoming a new age guru and publishing new age books under a pseudonym.

This is the foundation of the 'anti-virus' industry, which is founded on Microsoft's business model.... make crap products, enforce an illegal monopoly, and profit. That model has broken down in the age of the smartphone and Apple, and Google. But we shouldn't forget (and you can't, every time you walk into a Best Buy past the wall of anti-virus addons) what this represented and what it means.

much more than 20 years (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39261865)

(1) The author must be new to personal computing if he thinks 20 years ago was the first major virus scare. There were plenty around in the ealry 1980's, and some in the 1970s. Why are people so quick to think the first THEY saw was the first there was?

(2) However many years it has been - 30, whatever - it's a sad, sad commentary on our species that ANYONE gets them any more. People have had 30+ years to learn to use a computer securely, but it seems that most human beings are incapable of learning.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39261999)

(2) However many years it has been - 30, whatever - it's a sad, sad commentary on our species that ANYONE gets them any more. People have had 30+ years to learn to use a computer securely, but it seems that most human beings are incapable of learning.

What were you expecting? We still have people who don't know how to change the oil in their car and we've had cars for 100 years now. Some folks are just not going to learn about these things.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39262253)

This goes by the assumption that in 30 years virus writers have sat idle and not advanced their craft. Now, apply to this that in the last 30 years desktop computers (and the internet) have turned from a rarity into a necessity, you increase the number of clueless people who didn't have 30 years time to learn and adapt.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262275)

Was panicking about those earlier viruses as widespread amongst the Great Unwashed (by 1st-world standards) as with Michelangelo?

No? Back to your nap, Gramps.

Re:much more than 20 years (3, Informative)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262327)

dial up internet

Dial-up internet? 20 years ago? 1992? Are you talking about bbs'? That wasn't the internet. That was you connecting to a bbs. Two computers. Or Compuserv, AOL? Memeory sketchy, but I don't think the internet was what it is until several years later. Unless you were a student at a participating campus/institution, I doubt anyone knew about the "internet". I know, I was there (CSU Chico, CA, '86 alum, we had telerays and heathkit h-19 connected to the CSU system in Butte Hall. Special permission needed to access ARPANet). Might not have even been publicly accessble then. The internet wasn't really known to the public at large until '95 or so.
Btw; the first true "virus" scare (which was real, btw) was the Tappen worm, that was about '88. And it only scared users in acedemia, since the "internet" (ARPAnet, at the time) was only available to universities, the military, selected think tanks, etc.

Re:much more than 20 years (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262593)

The Internet was publicly available in the 1980s. Dunno about grandparent post, but anyone in the 80s was quite capable of dialing into the Internet via an IPSS-to-IP gateway (NSFNet offered several that were free). Indeed, the modern Internet in Europe -is- largely just IPSS rebadged, so one could argue that that alone was Internet.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263081)

But did they know about it? I don't recall the term "internet" being in the media until the early or mid-90's, and in the 80's it most certainly was not the "internet". Also- don't forget that the domain name system wasn't in place until 91 or so, this was when the first browser, Mosiac, was created. If you were dialing into the "internet" you were connecting via telnet, or possibly gopher (remember gopher?), and addressing nodes (computers) via ip address. As for being publiclly available, sure. Infact a local Ralstan Purina distributor maintained a dial-up pop that I frequented, a friend in the company gat me the passwords and numbers. But again, who outside of academia or that business knew anything about it? I can tell you, in Northern California in the 80's, I'm wasn't aware of any publically available dial-up POP nodes, not in the 80's. There may have been some, but as an ARPAnet aware student I didn't know about them.

Re:much more than 20 years (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39265249)

A lot (ok, maybe in the order of a few thousand rather than a few million) of Europeans were using IPSS for gaming in the 80s. Lots of online MMORGs were available to those who knew either the IP addresses or PADs. That's where the big market was at the time. Richard Bartle was a household name at the time - the John Carmack of his era. Everything from "Commodore and Vegetable Games" to "PCW" and "Practical Computing" were covering the online gaming industry at the time.

Oh, gopher is still around. You see the clients being listed on Freshmeat/Freecode from time to time. Alas, Archie seems to have died. It truly wasn't evil, unlike the search engines of today. WAIS was another early system that has since met the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky. FSP (an alternative to FTP) never really made it big, which always surprised me, but is also occasionally still maintained.

Telnet and FTP were the dominant protocols of way-back, yes, though Finger was occasionally in use. Less so after the Great Internet Worm fiasco, as admins were confronted with the choice of either disabling the service or (gasp!) having to apply security measures. However, they weren't the only protocols. NNTP was around (Usenet - a wonderland of intelligent conversation until AOL discovered it). Clients using Sun's RPC protocol were thinner on the ground, but they did exist for some applications.

A number of European nations (such as France) opted to have a private information network instead, so you saw networks spring up that allowed train schedules to be looked up, tickets to concerts to be bought, etc. eCommerce started a loooong time before CERN's webserver was written. Those were not Internet, though. They ran through teletext operations or via a single central service. Not a million miles from the "network computer" concept Sun was to later promote.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267371)

Technically people didn't call it "internet", most just called it the net, or if they were on more than one then they'd clarify and say arpanet or spannet or whatever particular part of what became the internet was called.

While they did not have modern DNS they did have hosts files and you could address machines by name and not just IP address. And usenet had a gateway to it all so that you could send mail to "" if you wanted.

Granted there were not a lot of public dial up internet locations. But very many people could dial up to work or dial up to the university and get IP access (or DECnet access or whatever).

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264013)

In most places you'd have to dial long distance to get to any such thing, and in those days long distance was ruinously expensive. Not to mention most people didn't have computers yet, let alone modems.

This is for the USA, YMMV for other countries.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39265299)

That was the beauty of IPSS (international packet switch stream) - you dialed a local PAD and could then connect to an X.25-to-IP relay (NSFNet ran several). Much cheaper than long-distance calls, although still not as cheap as people would have liked. British Telecom, especially, gouged heavily. This resulted in several online gamers later being arrested for theft and corruption in order to pay the bills they'd rack up.

Re:much more than 20 years (2)

tacokill (531275) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263045)

Yes, dial-up internet. Can't speak for others but I was using SLIP and a dial-up connection in the fall of 1991. Not to a BBS/AOL/Compusuck, rather, to the "internet". WWW didn't even exist and we thought Gopher was about the coolest thing since sliced bread.....

You are correct though that "the internet" didn't really go mainstream until later....1994 or 1995. Tappan worm? I think you mean the Morris worm. They are the same thing.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263299)

Yeah, Morris worm. Whatever. Haven't given it much thought until now, and that was 25 years ago. Excuse my crufty memory. So how many nodes (websites) were there, roughly, in 1991? Was it as rich a panoply of nonsense like today? I don't see how it could have been.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

tacokill (531275) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264687)

No, not even close. There were handfuls of gopher and FTP sites prior to WWW. However, once http got rolling, things increased exponentially. By 1997, we were at the point you describe where there was a panoply of information out there. However, in 1991-1995, it was pretty much all nerds doing nerd things (and we liked it that way!). Usenet was big at this time because it was a natural extension of the BBS days....

Here [] is a good link for you that will provide some nostalgia.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264855)

Oh yeah, usenet. I was a big user until the www took off.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267517)

No, BBS was just a Usenet wannabe. The two systems group up independently and at roughly the same time, they are not based off of each other and have very different userbases. BBS systems were for people who had no access to networks in other ways; home users with home computers. They had all sorts of bizarre limitations (upload to download ratios). People who had real access to networks would just dial in to work/school directly.

And the Morris worm was big news when it happened it affect many universities, corporations, and government sites. It made the front page of major US newspapers. Companies were shutting down their networks and causing disruption. The network most certainly was not tiny or else the worm would not have spread as fast as it did and affected so many sites. Sure it wasn't modern web style internet but it was active and thriving and shutting down the net caused a lot of disruption, plus confusion because without email there wasn't a lot of ways to have information about the worm be distributed.

And Morris worm was 1988.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263221)

College in the early-mid 80's was very different than 1992. By '92 a 386 IBM-compatibile PC bought from Costco came standard with Windows 2.5 and an internal ISA modem with Compuserve and Prodigy pre-installed.

Even thought the WWW didn't yet exist like we know it today, Internet use had spread well beyond BBS. Even my local library had a dial-in digital catalog. A lot of people had machines at the time that were capable of getting the virus, even if they didn't know how to use their machine in a way that would risk them getting it in the first place.

This was the dawn of the Information Superhighway, there was even an Outland/Bloom County comic in the Sunday papers where Bill the Cat is roadkill on the Information Superhighway, and Opus is ticketed for trying to get on with a typewriter. The general public knew internets existed, even if they didn't have the slightest clue about how to access or use them. The media at the time created a frenzy about this virus, scaring everyone who had a computer at home with a telephone jack.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263479)

Internet use had spread well beyond BBS.

This is my objection. You're confusing "internet" with "bbs". The two are NOT interchangable. "internet" != "bbs". Two different things intirely. Connecting to the internet uses an ip stack, connecting to a bbs uses a much simpler, serial protocol. Its not even a stack, its a serial handshake between two computers. No addressing, no other nodes (except in special lan setups), no protocols other than serial transfer ones. No ftp, not https, no dns. Don't confuse the internet with anything having to do with connecting to a bbs.

Internet vs. Web (1)

Venner (59051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263367)

>>Dial-up internet? 20 years ago? 1992?

I can speak for the Cleveland Free-net having free, public, dial-up internet access as of 1989. (I used it occasionally in 1991-92.) Several local BBSes also had internet gateways, which might be a dedicated ISDN line to a university computer center or even just a periodic uplink.

Are you inadvertently blending the Internet with the World Wide Web? The two terms have basically merged in common parlance, if not for the tech community. Prior to Mosaic's release at the end of '92 / beginning of '93, the hypertext web wasn't particularly popular yet, and was dwarfed by protocols like gopher and ftp. (Boy did that quickly change!)

Re:Internet vs. Web (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263565)

Are you inadvertently blending the Internet with the World Wide Web?

Having just explained the difference between the two in another post which you obviously haven't seen, and having been aware of the "internet" since '79 do you really think I'm doing that?

Re:much more than 20 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39263395)

I was using dial up in 1992. Dialed into Penn States access #. I remember having to setup a script or manually enter the options in the terminal window as after it asked for the user name and password it would present a menu of choices. I remember (don't recall if this was the list in 92 or a little later) you had to pick either SLIP or PPP. I do recall on slack ware or red at with kernel 1.2 it took me a while to get it to work right (obvious lack of resources to figure out all that I had to do)

It was somewhere between 92 and 94 iirc my high school ran a fiber optic line to connect the two high school buildings networks together (9&10 were typically in one building and 11&12 were in the other with the parking lots and a street between them).

Re:much more than 20 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39263553)

You forgot to add "And get off my lawn!"

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263851)

Yes was dialup internet in 1992. Now get back to your nap, gramps.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264027)

Get off of my lawn.

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267335)

You could dial up to internet in the 80s even. Yes the real internet not some wannabe BBS system or compuserve.

The Morris worm affected a lot of corporate people and was not at all restricted to academia, military, or think tanks! There were a lot of companies on the net, and this worm made national news the same day.

Re:much more than 20 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39274811)

Back in the BBS era, Fidonet and that-DEC-cable-connecting-across-Atlantic, it WAS internet, as we would use
BANG-paths to distribute news and e-mail with base64 pr0n^W attachments.
Now get off my lawn, great-great-grandson :).

Re:much more than 20 years (1)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262569)

There were plenty around in the ealry 1980's, and some in the 1970s

Strictly speaking there were, indeed, self-replicating viruses in the 70s, but those were really just harmless proofs of concept. Forward to the early 80s (from the always 100% reliable Wikipedia):

A program called "Elk Cloner" was the first personal computer virus to appear "in the wild"â"that is, outside the single computer or lab where it was created. Written in 1981 by Richard Skrenta, it attached itself to the Apple DOS 3.3 operating system and spread via floppy disk.

But the harmful viruses, as in malware, started in the mid-80s.

The first IBM PC virus in the wild was a boot sector virus dubbed (c)Brain created in 1986 by the Farooq Alvi Brothers in Lahore, Pakistan, reportedly to deter piracy of the software they had written.

Remember, we're talking in terms of major virus scares. In that context, yeah, Michelangelo really was the first biggie that got a lot of people talking and in a fearful state.

The author seems to know what he's talking about. He talks about earlier viruses, and gives a lot of very interesting detail about Michelangelo. You should read the article.

Fear mongering? (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261905)

...but the antivirus business was plagued forevermore by accusations of fear-mongering."

Symantec's whole business model goes something like this: "Hey, that's a nice computer you have there. A shame if something were to... happen... to it." It's not an accusation, they're quite forward about it... try unsubscribing from their service once you have it. It's easier to just call the bank and say "cancel my card, close the account, burn the evidence." --- though you still have to figure out how to remove said leech software and disable all the damn warnings. Modern antivirus does not go quietly: It threatens to kill you while you're disabling it, like some sick scifi computer.... "Noooo... daaaaaavee.... I loooovvve yooooouu.. *bzzzrrrrt*"

Re:Fear mongering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39263623)

You clearly shouldnt be allowed anywhere near a computer if you think clicking add/remove, uninstall is a difficult feat.

The program itself is terrible but getting rid of it is ridiculously easy task.

Some can be quite difficult to uninstall, actually (2)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39265199)

You clearly shouldnt be allowed anywhere near a computer if you think clicking add/remove, uninstall is a difficult feat.

The program itself is terrible but getting rid of it is ridiculously easy task.

I'm not up to date on the latest version of Symantec specifically, but I _do_ have experience with antiviruses which were about as easy to get rid of as an actual virus. Which is to say, not easy at all.

The most trivial example was an old McAffee, actually, which I installed on D: and apparently nobody at McAffee ever heard of people installing programs anywhere else than the default location. Because the first update (after I actually managed to make it update: let's just say that there were other things they had apparently never heard of, like people using a different browser) it installed an updated copy of itself in the default C:\Programs\ location, BUT left the old copy on D: also active and running, which slowed the computer majorly. Needless to say, uninstalling it also only uninstalled one of the copies, while leaving the other on the hard drive and still loaded all over the registry.

Sure, if you were Joe Average and didn't know jack shit about computers, you might think that the uninstall worked and your computer is now free of the buggy antivirus... it just keeps being slow and making your browser act weirdly for some completely other reason. But if you knew enough to at least look at what services are running, you'd discover that it was a more like James Bond: you may think you got rid of him, but he's still around to ruin your party ;)

But generally, given that these things are in a race to the bottom with the actual malware to get loaded even more invisible, at an even lower level, and take over even more functions than an actual virus, it should come as no surprise if the ARE more obnoxious than an actual virus, slow the computer down more than an actual virus, cause more network traffic than an actual virus, and occasionally are also harder to remove than an actual virus.

Re:Fear mongering? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39266539)

I have obviously never attempted to uninstall Symanetc, Norton, or McAffee antivirus programs, but you shouldn't use computers.

Do you work for congress? Because people in congress also don't know the first thing about computers, while telling other people who should and shouldn't be near a computer!

Thanks /. (3, Funny)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261929)

For making me feel old. And also for reviving not so fond memories of inadvertantly infecting a whole lab full of PCs with the antiexe boot sector virus at the community college I worked at a year or so later.

Re:Thanks /. (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 2 years ago | (#39266291)

No kidding. I had flashbacks when I read this post's title. Ugh.

th1s is goatsex (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39261981)

Sure that by the *BSD is dead. Whole has lost AAs until I hit my in a head spinning

Too long (1)

Kickstart70 (531316) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262013)

Once again, undeniable proof that I've been working in IT too long. I remember trying to convince scaremongers it wouldn't be that bad.

still waiting for the warhol virus (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262021) []

that which will work crossplatform, and bring down the internet in 15 minutes

it's a frightening and awesome idea to behold

Re:still waiting for the warhol virus (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262239)

Slammer was bad enough - all those infected Windows machines effectively brought down our campus network. Or was it Blaster? All those Windows viruses back in the bad old days seem to blend together anymore.

Michelangelo ended up being more of a tempest in a teapot.

The best part of the article (2)

rcuhljr (1132713) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262153)

I enjoyed the e-mail correspondence with the Apple/IBM joke in the signature. Interesting what two decades would change.

Cyberterrorists are going to blow up our grid!!!!! (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262161)

Fear-mongering is hardly anything new. Politicians have been using it since the dawn of civilization.

I remember seeing the AV boxes in Radio Shack (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262259)

I cannot remember which brand of anti-virus it was, but the box clearly referenced Michelangelo and the date & was obviously done to scare people into buying it.

Almost worked for me, but the store clerk explained that since I was still using my parents' Apple //c the program wouldn't work on it, and I probably didn't have anything to worry about anyway.

Awesome IBM/Apple joke (1)

JoeRobe (207552) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262445)

Did anyone else notice the joke in the sig of Norton employee?

Q: What do you get when you cross Apple & IBM?


On a different note, I'm confused by the propagation mechanism of Michaelangelo. The virus itself was installed in the boot sector, but how did it infect a fresh floppy? Did it run from the boot sector?

Also, is there any information on the actual number of computers infected? Was the damage minimal because there were a lot of infected computers that got cleaned with the much-hyped antivirus, or were there not many infections in the first place?

Re:Awesome IBM/Apple joke (2)

Xian97 (714198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262975)

From what I remember of most boot sector viruses, they would load themselves into memory then infect any other disc inserted afterwards. I had one on an Amiga game like that. You couldn't clean it without making the disc unbootable, instead you just had to remember to power down afterwards to prevent it from spreading. This was back in the days when many people commonly booted from floppy rather than a hard disc. Michelangelo was significant since it went after the hard drive boot sector, not just a floppy.

Re:Awesome IBM/Apple joke (3, Informative)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264627)

They ran as TSRs [] , with hooks into the interrupt for disk read/writes.

Over heard in the school hallways... (3, Funny)

braindrainbahrain (874202) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262457)

"...Why did they name it after one of the Ninja Turtles?"

Just leave it off on March 6th (3, Interesting)

Xian97 (714198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262845)

I remember seeing one bit of advice back then to just leave your computer off on March 6th, or at the least to change your system clock, since that was when the virus would be triggered. I don't know how many followed that advice, but I am guessing that many people did. I guess many could do that in 1992, unlike today where you can't accomplish anything if the computer is down.

Re:Just leave it off on March 6th (1)

EliSowash (2532508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263285)

You mean it's not March 5, 1992 for the 7306th day in a row! I've been stuck in the early 90s for close to two decades!

Rush roooooles!!

Re:Just leave it off on March 6th (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39270053)

You mean it's not March 5, 1992 for the 7306th day in a row!

Don't worry, sooner or later you'll get to fuck Andie MacDowell

Re:Just leave it off on March 6th (2)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264065)

In those days most people had completely standalone computers, without even a modem or network card, so realistically the only way they'd get an infection is by sharing floppies, ergo slower spread and geographically contained.

da Vinci (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39262857)

Unless-a five million dollars are transferred to the following numbered account in-a seven days, I will-a capsize five tankers in the Ellingson fleet.

CAPCHA is ignore, lol, carry on Slashdot.

1989... (1)

afc_wimbledon (1052878) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262861)

In 1989 there was an earlier Malware scare [] claiming to come from "PC Cyborg Corporation" and demanding money. I worked for a company called Cyborg Systems that made payroll software for IBM Mainframes and the like. PC Plod turned up, wondering if we were branching out...

Back in my day.... (2)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39263505)

... our viri were written by true hackers and named after great artists. None of these script kiddie generated bots with names that read like poorly named perl variables.

Now get off my lawn.

I remember this one! (1)

jason777 (557591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264353)

Ah yes, the first (and somehow last) virus I ever had on computers. I had a 486 with I think dos 6.22, and was fairly new to computers. If I remember correctly, didnt it add like 666 bytes to every executable? I actually manually went in with a hex editor and cleaned all my files. Its amazing that there were that few executables on the system that I could do that manually. Did anti-virus software even exist then?

Movie Night (2)

PriNT2357 (1742498) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264719)

I guess I'll have to learn more about this virus. There was a video around here somewhere... Ah. Here it is. I'll put it on tonight and see what this is all about. It's a movie called Hackers. Hollywood wouldn't lie to me, right?

It got me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39264751)

I got nailed by this virus. I am pretty sure that the computer store where I bought the hard drive from installed it hoping I would bring my computer back to them for service. They were not in business for very long.

"I'm scared of the vahrus!" (3, Funny)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#39265905)

I remember the Michaelangelo virus well. It was the first virus to really hit the national news, and lots of users were worried about it. I was working for a consulting firm in Savannah, GA at the time. I like to tell this story about one of our customers who had heard about the virus on the news.

It was during the Michelangelo hysteria that I received a call from Miss M-, an employee of one of our clients located in the rural town of G-, Georgia.

"Tell me something", she began in her South-Georgia dialect. "How can you get that vahrus they been talkin' about?"

Their computer was an IBM AS400, which was totally immune from Michelangelo. I explained this to her.

"Well, how can you catch that vahrus? How does it move around?"

"Well, um, through the telephone," I answered.

Every day, this woman used her AS400 to call a credit card clearing house computer, and I thought that she could put two and two together.

"The Phone?" she exclaimed. "Well, I mean, how can you get a vahrus over the phone? How can I keep from getting the vahrus? Should I wear gloves or something!"

It finally occurred to me that she wasn't just worried that her computer could get the virus, but that SHE could get the virus from her computer (and I had just told her she could get it over the phone!).

I went through a careful explanation as to how it wasn't a real virus like people get, but was just a little computer program. It was called a virus because it copied itself from computer to computer, sort of like the real thing.

"Oh, my! Well, I'm SO glad I called you. I was SO worried and I didn't know what to do about the vahrus."

I was in such a state of shock all I could do was say, "You're welcome," and hang up.

College "Wahoo" virus. (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39266051)

I can't remember the name of the virus- but there was a Word Macro virus that my university had the hardest time getting rid of- it was on all the computers in the lab. Wahoo virus- or something like that.

Can't remember the exact phrase- (think it was "Wahoo") - it would randomly insert the word "Wahoo" in documents created on infected computers. I don't think it actually activated until you clicked "print" - so if you wern't checking what you printed off you wouldn't know that the paper you turned into the professor was riddled with randomly placed "Wahoo"s

Virus writers USED to have a sense of humor.

Michaelangelo & the Leap Day (2)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267317)

Michaelangelo was *supposed* to go off on a Tuesday. So everyone would have that Monday to go in, make sure all of their machines were clean, and be all prepared for Tuesday.

Except many system at the time didn't handle the leap day correctly, so they came in on Monday, booted up the machine ... and the payload hit.

Re:Michaelangelo & the Leap Day (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39267361)

So, is that what happened to Azure?

Re:Michaelangelo & the Leap Day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39272087)

But March 6, 1992 was a Friday. Please explain.

More threats of the same (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269139)

I still get occasional chain letters that say a virus is coming that will wipe your hard drive.

Virus publicity is a no-win situation. (1)

dweller_below (136040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39269861)

I remember the Michaelangelo virus. Lets see.. Yep. I still have a copy. I suppose I ought to throw that old box of floppies away. I've still got: Michaelangelo, Stealth, Stoned.. I used to use them to test and calibrate virus checkers. A month before Michaelangelo triggered, we did some sampling and determined that it was on hundreds of University computers. So, a couple dozen of us had a hectic month chasing it down and eliminating it. It was everywhere. President's office. Multiple Deans. Tons of Researchers and Faculty. If we ignored it, then the loss would have been immense. Come March 6th and we only lost 2 computers. We all breathed a big sigh of relief. Next day, the University paper complained that we had over-rated the threat. I told them I had copies of the virus. I would be glad to put it back on their computers and change the date. Didn't get any takers. Security is full of no-win situations. Sometimes, the best you can do is keep them alive to complain.

I still have Michelangelo Virus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39272085)

It lives on my MFM/Bios/Setup disk. You know that floppy to setup the numbers for the MFM drives.... Back in the day, 8086, 80286 etc..
I believe the old DOS msav can find it. or DOS fprot should find it.

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