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The First “Virus”

The earliest viruses to infect thousands of personal computers was the © Brain virus, a program that was not meant to be a virus at all. Three brothers in Pakistan, Amjad, Shahid and Basit Alvi had started up a computer firm in Pakistan in the early eighties. They first started by offering support to those who had purchased computers, as there was no such official mechanism in Pakistan at that time. Later on, they began to make software for some of their customers. They wrote a program for Doctors, and used an early form of DRM in the disks of their software. If the floppy was illegally replicated, the boot sector got corrupted, and a message flashed on the screen of the users.

The message was a jovial call to contact the brothers (the phone numbers was included), to get a “vaccination” because of an “infection” (their customers were doctors remember?). Someone implemented the 3.5 KB file on a DOS disk, and the “virus” spread like wildfire, every time someone copied or traded an illegal version of a software. The Alvi brothers were bombarded by calls from all around the world, asking them to clear up the problem. Just when authorities were about to raise a fuss about the issue, they realized that the virus actually showed the scale of the rampant piracy - even in the early days of computing, and the fuss died down. However, this was not before Time magazine branded the virus as “Pakistani Flu” and published a none too flattering article about these “malicious hackers”.