The Stack Archive

Online museum displays decades of malware

Fri 5 Feb 2016

Archive.org, best-known as a resource for finding historical snapshots of websites, has launched a museum which provides a detailed view into the history of malware. Curated by Mikko Hermanni Hyppönen, the chief research officer at F-Secure, the new resource offers a fascinating look at the technical limits hackers were straining against for twenty or more years in an effort to…well, ruin your day.

The period covered represents the 1980s and 1990s, arguably the golden age of 8-bit anarchy. Most interestingly the malware examples, safely sandboxed, can actually be run live from their respective pages via DOS game emulation.

Though currently short on Wiki-style historical information, each virus can also be downloaded to your device – though all have been shorn of their ability to actually do any damage.

frodo-livesThere are currently 65 entries, each of which has a manifest containing a screenshot (or multiple screenshots, in the cases of more ‘epic’ viral endeavours), a torrent file for sharing the fun, the de-fanged virus itself and XML versions of the minimal text information on each entry.

The current collection represents only a small fraction of the potential number of items that could be included in the museum. By the year 2000, it was estimated that 50,000 viruses had been at circulation in some point, though many were – then as now – derivative of earlier attempts.

Security author Robert Slade theorised that the creativity of hackers of that era may have spent itself by the time their work had delivered the offending ‘payload screen’ to the victim. “Yes, there were a few who came up with new tricks but most simply copied existing viruses. It is the same today.”

Users who would like to see armed retro viruses (sit down, geneticists) actually doing some real damage can resort to danooct1’s popular YouTube channel and enjoy a time when mayhem was spotty and bored rather than avaricious or homicidal.

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