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History of Antivirus Software

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History of Antivirus Software

1949–1980 period (pre-antivirus days)
Although the roots of the computer virus date back as early as 1949, when the Hungarian scientist John von Neumann published the "Theory of self-reproducing automata", the first known computer virus appeared in 1971 and was dubbed the "Creeper virus". This computer virus infected Digital Equipment Corporation's (DEC) PDP-10 mainframe computers running the TENEX operating system.

The Creeper virus was eventually deleted by a program created by Ray Tomlinson and known as "The Reaper". Some people consider "The Reaper" the first antivirus software ever written – it may be the case, but it is important to note that the Reaper was actually a virus itself specifically designed to remove the Creeper virus.

The Creeper virus was followed by several other viruses. The first known that appeared "in the wild" was "Elk Cloner", in 1981, which infected Apple II computers.

In 1983, the term "computer virus" was coined by Fred Cohen in one of the first ever published academic papers on computer viruses. Cohen used the term "computer virus" to describe a program that: "affect other computer programs by modifying them in such a way as to include a (possibly evolved) copy of itself." (note that a more recent, and precise, definition of computer virus has been given by the Hungarian security researcher Péter Szőr: "a code that recursively replicates a possibly evolved copy of itself"). 
The first IBM PC compatible "in the wild" computer virus, and one of the first real widespread infections, was "Brain" in 1986. From then, the number of viruses has grown exponentially.  Most of the computer viruses written in the early and mid-1980s were limited to self-reproduction and had no specific damage routine built into the code. That changed when more and more programmers became acquainted with computer virus programming and created viruses that manipulated or even destroyed data on infected computers.

Before internet connectivity was widespread, computer viruses were typically spread by infected floppy disks. Antivirus software came into use, but was updated relatively infrequently. During this time, virus checkers essentially had to check executable files and the boot sectors of floppy disks and hard disks. However, as internet usage became common, viruses began to spread online.

1980–1990 period (early days)
There are competing claims for the innovator of the first antivirus product. Possibly, the first publicly documented removal of an "in the wild" computer virus (i.e. the "Vienna virus") was performed by Bernd Fix in 1987.

In 1987, Andreas Lüning and Kai Figge, who founded G Data Software in 1985, released their first antivirus product for the Atari ST platform. In 1987, the Ultimate Virus Killer (UVK) was also released. This was the de facto industry standard virus killer for the Atari ST and Atari Falcon, the last version of which (version 9.0) was released in April 2004.[citation needed] In 1987, in the United States, John McAfee founded the McAfee company (was part of Intel Security and, at the end of that year, he released the first version of VirusScan.  Also in 1987 (in Czechoslovakia), Peter Paško, Rudolf Hrubý, and Miroslav Trnka created the first version of NOD antivirus.

In 1987, Fred Cohen wrote that there is no algorithm that can perfectly detect all possible computer viruses.

Finally, at the end of 1987, the first two heuristic antivirus utilities were released: Flushot Plus by Ross Greenberg and Anti4us by Erwin Lanting. In his O'Reilly book, Malicious Mobile Code: Virus Protection for Windows, Roger Grimes described Flushot Plus as "the first holistic program to fight malicious mobile code (MMC)."

However, the kind of heuristic used by early AV engines was totally different from those used today. The first product with a heuristic engine resembling modern ones was F-PROT in 1991. Early heuristic engines were based on dividing the binary in different sections: data section, code section (in a legitimate binary, it usually starts always from the same location). Indeed, the initial viruses re-organized the layout of the sections, or overrode the initial portion of section in order to jump to the very end of the file where malicious code was located—only going back to resume execution of the original code. This was a very specific pattern, not used at the time by any legitimate software, which represented an elegant heuristic to catch suspicious code. Other kinds of more advanced heuristics were later added, such as suspicious section names, incorrect header size, regular expressions, and partial pattern in-memory matching.

In 1988, the growth of antivirus companies continued. In Germany, Tjark Auerbach founded Avira (H+BEDV at the time) and released the first version of AntiVir (named "Luke Filewalker" at the time). In Bulgaria, Dr. Vesselin Bontchev released his first freeware antivirus program (he later joined FRISK Software). Also Frans Veldman released the first version of ThunderByte Antivirus, also known as TBAV (he sold his company to Norman Safeground in 1998). In Czechoslovakia, Pavel Baudiš and Eduard Kučera started avast! (at the time ALWIL Software) and released their first version of avast! antivirus. In June 1988, in South Korea, Dr. Ahn Cheol-Soo released its first antivirus software, called V1 (he founded AhnLab later in 1995). Finally, in the Autumn 1988, in United Kingdom, Alan Solomon founded S&S International and created his Dr. Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit (although he launched it commercially only in 1991 – in 1998 Dr. Solomon’s company was acquired by McAfee). In November 1988 a professor at the Panamerican University in Mexico City named Alejandro E. Carriles copyrighted the first antivirus software in Mexico under the name "Byte Matabichos" (Byte Bugkiller) to help solve the rampant virus infestation among students.

Also in 1988, a mailing list named VIRUS-L was started on the BITNET/EARN network where new viruses and the possibilities of detecting and eliminating viruses were discussed. Some members of this mailing list were: Alan Solomon, Eugene Kaspersky (Kaspersky Lab), Friðrik Skúlason (FRISK Software), John McAfee (McAfee), Luis Corrons (Panda Security), Mikko Hyppönen (F-Secure), Péter Szőr, Tjark Auerbach (Avira) and Dr. Vesselin Bontchev (FRISK Software).

In 1989, in Iceland, Friðrik Skúlason created the first version of F-PROT Anti-Virus back in 1989 (he founded FRISK Software only in 1993). In the meanwhile, in United States, Symantec (founded by Gary Hendrix in 1982) launched its first Symantec antivirus for Macintosh (SAM). SAM 2.0, released March 1990, incorporated technology allowing users to easily update SAM to intercept and eliminate new viruses, including many that didn't exist at the time of the program's release.

In the end of the 1980s, in United Kingdom, Jan Hruska and Peter Lammer founded the security firm Sophos and began producing their first antivirus and encryption products. In the same period, in Hungary, also VirusBuster was founded (which has recently being incorporated by Sophos).

1990–2000 period (emergence of the antivirus industry)
In 1990, in Spain, Mikel Urizarbarrena founded Panda Security (Panda Software at the time). In Hungary, the security researcher Péter Szőr released the first version of Pasteur antivirus. In Italy, Gianfranco Tonello created the first version of VirIT eXplorer antivirus (he founded TG Soft one year later).

In 1990, the Computer Antivirus Research Organization (CARO) was founded. In 1991, CARO released the "Virus Naming Scheme", originally written by Friðrik Skúlason and Vesselin Bontchev. Although this naming scheme is now outdated, it remains the only existing standard that most computer security companies and researchers ever attempted to adopt. CARO members includes: Alan Solomon, Costin Raiu, Dmitry Gryaznov, Eugene Kaspersky, Friðrik Skúlason, Igor Muttik, Mikko Hyppönen, Morton Swimmer, Nick FitzGerald, Padgett Peterson, Peter Ferrie, Righard Zwienenberg and Dr. Vesselin Bontchev.

In 1991, in the United States, Symantec released the first version of Norton AntiVirus. In the same year, in the Czech Republic, Jan Gritzbach and Tomáš Hofer founded AVG Technologies (Grisoft at the time), although they released the first version of their Anti-Virus Guard (AVG) only in 1992. On the other hand, in Finland, F-Secure (founded in 1988 by Petri Allas and Risto Siilasmaa – with the name of Data Fellows) released the first version of their antivirus product. F-Secure claims to be the first antivirus firm to establish a presence on the World Wide Web.

In 1991, the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (EICAR) was founded to further antivirus research and improve development of antivirus software.

In 1992, in Russia, Igor Danilov released the first version of SpiderWeb, which later became Dr. Web.

In 1994, AV-TEST reported that there were 28,613 unique malware samples (based on MD5) in their database.

Over time other companies were founded. In 1996, in Romania, Bitdefender was founded and released the first version of Anti-Virus eXpert (AVX). In 1997, in Russia, Eugene Kaspersky and Natalya Kaspersky co-founded security firm Kaspersky Lab.

In 1996, there was also the first "in the wild" Linux virus, known as "Staog".

In 1999, AV-TEST reported that there were 98,428 unique malware samples (based on MD5) in their database.

2000–2005 period
In 2000, Rainer Link and Howard Fuhs started the first open source antivirus engine, called OpenAntivirus Project.

In 2001, Tomasz Kojm released the first version of ClamAV, the first ever open source antivirus engine to be commercialised. In 2007, ClamAV was bought by Sourcefire,  which in turn was acquired by Cisco Systems in 2013.

In 2002, in United Kingdom, Morten Lund and Theis Søndergaard co-founded the antivirus firm BullGuard.

In 2005, AV-TEST reported that there were 333,425 unique malware samples (based on MD5) in their database.

2005–2014 period
In 2007, AV-TEST reported a number of 5,490,960 new unique malware samples (based on MD5) only for that year. In 2012 and 2013, antivirus firms reported a new malware samples range from 300,000 to over 500,000 per day.

Over the years it has become necessary for antivirus software to use several different strategies (e.g. specific email and network protection or low level modules) and detection algorithms, as well as to check an increasing variety of files, rather than just executables, for several reasons:

Powerful macros used in word processor applications, such as Microsoft Word, presented a risk. Virus writers could use the macros to write viruses embedded within documents. This meant that computers could now also be at risk from infection by opening documents with hidden attached macros.
The possibility of embedding executable objects inside otherwise non-executable file formats can make opening those files a risk.
Later email programs, in particular Microsoft's Outlook Express and Outlook, were vulnerable to viruses embedded in the email body itself. A user's computer could be infected by just opening or previewing a message.
In 2005, F-Secure was the first security firm that developed an Anti-Rootkit technology, called BlackLight.

Because most users are usually connected to the Internet on a continual basis, Jon Oberheide first proposed a Cloud-based antivirus design in 2008.

In February 2008 McAfee Labs added the industry-first cloud-based anti-malware functionality to VirusScan under Artemis name. It was tested by AV-Comparatives in February 2008 and officially unveiled in August 2008 in McAfee VirusScan.

Cloud AV created problems for comparative testing of security software – part of the AV definitions was out of testers control (on constantly updated AV company servers) thus making results non-repeatable. As a result, Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organisation (AMTSO) started working on methodology of testing cloud products which was adopted on May 7, 2009.

In 2011, AVG introduced a similar cloud service, called Protective Cloud Technology.

2014–present (rise of next-gen)
Following the 2014 release of the APT 1 report from Mandiant, the industry has seen a shift towards signature-less approaches to the problem capable of detecting and mitigating zero-day attacks. Numerous approaches to address these new forms of threats have appeared, including behavioral detection, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud-based file detonation. According to Gartner, it is expected the rise of new entrants, such Carbon Black, Cylance and Crowdstrike will force EPP incumbents into a new phase of innovation and acquisition. One method from Bromium involves micro-virtualization to protect desktops from malicious code execution initiated by the end user. Another approach from SentinelOne and Carbon Black focuses on behavioral detection by building a full context around every process execution path in real time, while Cylance leverages an artificial intelligence model based on machine learning. Increasingly, these signature-less approaches have been defined by the media and analyst firms as "next-generation" antivirus and are seeing rapid market adoption as certified antivirus replacement technologies by firms such as Coalfire and DirectDefense. In response, traditional antivirus vendors such as Trend Micro, Symantec and Sophos have responded by incorporating "next-gen" offerings into their portfolios as analyst firms such as Forrester and Gartner have called traditional signature-based antivirus "ineffective" and "outdated".

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