Computer security is a necessary requirement for businesses, and not just because it is a legal requirement to protect user data.
The vast majority of office-based businesses rely on online IT services, and to avoid a lot of the inherent hazards that come with the incredible potential to do business with the entire world, a host of security measures and services with technology experts is all but essential.
What may surprise a lot of people who have always lived in a security-first IT world is that it has not always been this way. In fact, it took an internationally reported virus scare feared to have an unprecedented scope to spur a security revolution that took well over a decade to see results.
That the panic was based on what some have described as an over-exaggeration and others as an outright hoax is beside the point.
The Dawn Of Computer Security
The first anti-virus software was created in 1972 as a means to combat the very first computer virus.
The virus Creeper and the virus-deleting software Reaper are discussed in tandem, and whilst Creeper could slow down networks and crash early computers, it was not made with any malicious intent in mind.
However, the potential for destruction was clear, something that became clear when the Brain computer virus spread far beyond its origin point in Lahore, Pakistan, and infected computers around the world by 1986.
A university dropout and Lockheed employee John McAfee took note of the spread of the virus and created McAfee VirusScan in 1987 to help destroy Brain and other early computer threats.
He would, two years later, write one of the first books on the subject, but his reputation as an anti-virus expert would be harmed by one of the most infamous security threats thus seen.
The Dark Art Of Michaelangelo
Named after its programmed activation date of 6th March, Michelangelo was first spotted in New Zealand and like many viruses of the era worked by infecting the boot data of hard disks, rendering them unusable.
What made it different to other viruses was that it had a determined activation date, meaning it could theoretically escape detection for years and destroy data, and also it had the eyes of the world watching it.
Due to a mix-up at IBM, a shipment of LANSpool disks was infected with the virus, creating a fear that thousands, if not millions of computers were infected with Michaelangelo, with an apocalyptic tone only exceeded by the Y2K problem of 1999.
People, fearing the worst, bought anti-virus software for the first time, and businesses started to put in place what would become data resilience policies.
Ultimately, computer owners around the world feared the worst, and some were disappointed when reality did not come close to this.
The IBM infection numbered hundreds of disks at most and estimations of data loss caused by the virus range in the low tens of thousands.
However, in the weeks leading up to 6th March 1992, there was a spike in virus reports because people who had never heard of the concept of an anti-virus started to take an interest in data security.
In that sense, whilst one can somewhat uncharitably describe Michaelangelo as a hoax, it did help to create an awareness of computer security that would foster a generation of more savvy computer users, aided by security experts putting their business first.