The first computer virus [Show Notes]

On Sunday the 13th of August I spoke with Harvey Deegan on 6PR which you can playback below:

The first virus, the “Creeper system,” emerged in 1971 and filled hard drives, hindering operation. The trend of viruses has grown exponentially since.

Computer viruses have been a significant part of the digital landscape, primarily spread through the Internet. They are often designed to compromise user information, and computing resources, or even disable systems entirely.

Early viruses like “Brain” for MS-DOS in 1986 and “The Morris” in 1988, demonstrated the evolving capabilities and consequences. Infamous viruses include “Michelangelo,” which activated on a specific date, “CIH” (Chernobyl) causing mass damage, and “Melissa,” the first major Word Macro Virus. The year 2000 saw “iloveyou,” overwhelming email servers.

Numerous viruses followed, including “Anna Kournikova,” Code Red, Nimba, and more. Notable ransomware started with “CryptoLocker” in 2013, while “WannaCry” and “NotPetya” in 2017 exploited a Windows protocol vulnerability. These underscored the cat-and-mouse game between attackers and cybersecurity experts.

To keep your computer safe from viruses and other malicious threats, you should follow these best practices:

Install Antivirus Software: Use reputable antivirus and anti-malware software to protect your system from known threats. Keep the software updated to ensure it can detect and neutralize the latest viruses.

Keep Operating System and Software Updated: Regularly update your operating system (Windows, macOS, etc.) and all installed software, including browsers, plugins, and applications. Updates often include security patches that fix vulnerabilities exploited by viruses.

Enable Firewall: Turn on the built-in firewall on your computer to monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic. This adds an extra layer of protection against unauthorized access.

Use Strong, Unique Passwords: Use strong and unique passwords for your accounts. Avoid using common passwords that can be easily guessed. (Controversial stance from Ming about Password Keepers)

Be Cautious with Email: Be wary of opening attachments or clicking links in unsolicited or suspicious emails. Even if an email appears to be from a trusted source, verify the content before interacting with it.

Avoid Suspicious Websites: Don’t visit untrustworthy or suspicious websites. Stick to reputable sources for downloading software and avoid downloading pirated or cracked applications.

Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Enable 2FA whenever possible for your online accounts. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification in addition to your password.

Backup Your Data: Regularly backup your important files and data to an external storage device or a cloud service. This will help you recover your data in case of a malware infection or other issues.

Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated about the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices. Being informed helps you recognize and avoid potential risks.

Be Careful with Downloads: Be cautious when downloading files from the internet. Only download files from trusted sources and scan them for viruses before opening.

Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks: Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive activities, as they may not be secure. If you must use public Wi-Fi, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your connection.

Disable Macros: Disable macros in documents, especially in Microsoft Office files, unless you’re certain they’re from a trusted source. Macros can be used to spread malware.

Secure Your Browser: Configure your web browser to block pop-ups and malicious scripts. Regularly clear your browsing history, cache, and cookies to reduce the risk of tracking and malware.

Regularly Scan for Malware: Perform regular scans of your computer with your antivirus software to identify and remove any potential threats.

Use Trusted Sources: When downloading software, apps, or updates, use official websites and app stores. Avoid third-party sources, as they may offer compromised versions.

Take Care of Your Mental Health & Stay Well Rested: Hackers and scammers are trying to take advantage of people who are overwhelmed and stressed, which a lot of us are with economic pressures, overall anxiety, interest rate hikes, and exorbitant power bills. A well-timed URGENT message about your account being compromised, or an invoice getting paid can throw off even the most well-versed tech person.

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About Ming Johanson
Ming works with businesses across the globe from business development to managing (with her team) complex digital strategies that deliver tangible and desirable financial returns. Recently recognised and awarded for her ongoing contribution to the technology industries in the 2019 Women In Technology Tech [+] 20 Awards, Ming is a passionate mental health Ambassador for R U OK? Day, a mentor at Startup Weekend Perth and a regular Australian Media Commentator as a Tech Evangelist on a range of topics in Mental Health, Social Media & Technology.