Computer viruses are so terrifying today that we tend to forget there was malware that destroyed our computers in the '90s, too. Granted, things were rather different back then, what with all the DOS-run machines and rudimentary Internet — but that didn't make getting a computer virus any better than it is now. While many of us probably try to forget the pain of receiving a virus (and the even bigger pain of trying to remove it) for the purposes of keeping our stress levels in check, the Malware Museum is paying homage to the malware of the '90s with a recently released collection of the viruses of our childhoods, curated by Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer of Finnish security company F-Secure.
"I suppose many old-school virus writers were using their viruses as a means of expression," Hypponen said recently to the Daily Dot, explaining the vibrant and colorful graphics that would sometimes accompany these viruses. He added, "25 years ago, people were writing viruses because they thought it was interesting or fun. Nowadays, most virus writers write malware to make money ... Old, happy hackers have pretty much completely disappeared."
Indeed, malware is not the same. Today, we rely on computers and the Internet for everything. We enter and store some of our most sensitive information online; identity theft is more common than we ever think; millions of people utilize online banking, which is both convenient and a bit unnerving; and websites are susceptible to all kinds of hackers and leaks. As Hypponen explained, however, things weren't always so serious.
Remember these six pieces of malware? We might not remember them fondly... but we do remember them. And maybe that's kind of the point.
1. SkyNet's Mysterious Message
This has to be the nicest virus ever. Described as non-destructive, this bad boy would take hold of your files and slow your computer down to an impossibly slow pace. I don't care how non-destructive it was; this message was enough to scare the pants off anyone.
Don't be fooled by this serene and incredibly realistic beach portrayal. (That was sarcasm, by the way.) Once you caught this bug, it would make your life miserable and cause your computer to malfunction in different ways depending on the date. On Saturdays in June, as an example, the virus would overwrite certain files with the text, "There is nothing in the world that I ever wanted more than to never feel breaking apart all my programs again." I don't know what that means, but it doesn't sound good.
Did anyone else experience the worst kind of anxiety when these unstoppable boxes started popping up? Your life would begin to unravel. This virus would go into attack mode when the date and month matched in numbers (Jan. 1, Feb. 2, March 3, etc.).
4. A Subtle Political Message
Even in the '90s, people knew what was up.
5. Don't Do Drugs
The LSD virus would overwrite all files of current directory and display this psychedelic swirl of colors. Once it got hold of your computer, it could replicate itself and infect other files and programs.
6. Q Walker
Images: Malware Museum (6)