Creeper – The World’s First Computer Virus

Computer viruses have been around for a long time and can be very harmful.

But did you know that the world’s first computer virus was created as an experiment in self-duplication?

Let’s look at the Creeper virus and how it all started.

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Self-Replicating Programs

John von Neumann - CREEPER
John von Neumann

In 1949, mathematician John von Neumann proposed the idea of self-replicating programs.

These were specialized computers or self-replicating automata that could make copies of themselves and pass on their programming to their offspring.

A worm is a computer virus that can self-replicate via a computer network, such as the Internet.

The Creeper Virus

Bob Thomas designed the Creeper virus in 1971 as an experiment in self-duplication.

He did not intend to inflict injury or damage but rather to demonstrate how a mobile application works.

The Creeper Virus
The Creeper Virus

Creeper was designed as a security test to see if a self-replicating program was possible.

With each new hard drive infected, Creeper would try to remove itself from the previous host.

Catch Me If You Can!

Creeper Virus, Catch Me If You Can!
Creeper Virus, Catch Me If You Can!

The Creeper virus damaged Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP-10 mainframe systems using the TEN-Extended (TENEX) operating system without their knowledge (OS).

It caused the message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!” to appear on linked teletype computer screens.

Not Quite Malware

While the Creeper virus did cause system corruption, it was not classified as malware like most modern computer viruses.

The only harm it caused was that it displayed a notice. It didn’t delete or steal data, demand a ransom, or make the mainframe unusable.

Although its mechanism may seem very simple, it is important to bear in mind that it was the first time that software capable of being automatically transmitted from one computer to another was created.

The Naming

Creeper Virus - Scooby Doo

Bob Thomas, the software’s inventor, had just intended to build an experimental, self-replicating program to show that it could be done.

Creeper was a strange green ghoul that robbed banks in the classic 1970s cartoon program “Scooby Doo.”

He named it partly out of scientific curiosity but also enjoyed it.

The Creeper virus may not have been harmful, but it paved the way for future computer viruses that have caused much damage.

It’s important to be careful when using computers and the Internet and to ensure your anti-virus software is current.

This blog post is based on information from Imran Alam

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