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The Malware Museum shows the cute computer viruses of the past

The Malware Museum shows the cute computer viruses of the past

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Modern malware is designed to do things like steal your credit card information, enable identity theft, and even shut down nuclear power stations, and usually carries out its attacks silently and behind the scenes so as not to arouse suspicion. But it hasn't always been this way. Rather than hijack them, the creators of the viruses of the past often set out to destroy computers, and trumpeted their activities with garish splash screens, showing scrambled code, animated pot leaves, or laughing skulls.

The vast majority of these viruses are gone now, the security holes they exploited patched out of existence by Microsoft or by the inexorable march of time making the very machines they worked on obsolete, but a new collection on the Internet Archive allows us to get a glimpse at an important part of computer history. The Malware Museum is an online collection put together by Mikko Hermanni Hyppönen, chief resource officer at Finnish security firm F-secure, featuring emulated versions of a number of MS-DOS viruses from the 1980s and 1990s.


Visitors can download defanged versions of the viruses in question, each of which has had the destructive bit of code at its core removed, leaving only the visual effects. Of those, the swirling colors of a virus called "LSD.COM" are perhaps the most impressive, but nothing captures the spiteful spirit of the era like one piece of nefarious code that simply displays the word "ha!" in flickering ASCII characters. As far as the deliberate destruction of your stuff goes, it was a simpler time.