Living with the internet: Keeping it safe
Living with the internet: Keeping it safe

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Living with the internet: Keeping it safe

1.1 The growth of malware

The figures below show how the problem of malware has increased over the last 30 years.

1974 First self-replicating code (Xerox)
1982 First virus on the Apple platform
1984 First conference papers on viruses presented
1986 First recorded virus infection on the PC
1987 First antivirus software
1990 400 viruses or variants
1996 8700 viruses or variants
1998 20000 viruses or variants
2003 80000 viruses or variants

The term 'variant' is used to describe a virus that has been modified from the original in some way but is still basically the same virus. For example, the w32/sobig.a virus discovered in 2003 is the original virus and w32/sobig.f is a variant of the original.

Besides the number of different types of virus, the volume of viruses spread by email has grown enormously, as the following figure shows.

Figure 1
Figure 1 The number of viruses detected each month by the Open University's mail filter.

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