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What was the very first antivirus package?

What was the very first antivirus package?
(Image credit: Future)

Make no mistake - having the best antivirus software on your PC is an absolute necessity. Antivirus applications keep our computers safe from more than just aggressive computer viruses; they also fend off spyware, Trojans, and other forms of malware that can ruin a PC or steal private information, which will ultimately lead to you making a quick call to an identity theft protection service. We recommend most of the top providers: Norton 360 and Bitdefender are among the best.

Just a few decades ago, though, there were no such things as antivirus programs. In fact, back then, there wasn't even a use for them since the internet wasn't adopted by the general populace, and the threat of subverting it wasn't a widespread problem. Viruses were contained within the small network of computers that pre-dated the internet.

The first known virus was created in 1971, and was dubbed the Creeper Virus. This virus was spread using the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the world's first digital networking communications method, which was funded by the United States Department of Defense, and used by government research groups and universities. When the computers were infected, the message "I'm the creeper, catch me if you can!" appeared on the screen as it replicated itself to spread to other computers within the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network.

The Creeper Virus was eventually deleted by a program known as The Reaper. You may consider The Reaper the first true antivirus, but the term "virus" wasn't used as the official name of a computer invasion until it was coined by American computer scientist Frederick B. Cohen in 1983.

After the Creeper met the Reaper

The Creeper was followed by several more viruses, but the first official antivirus, as we might recognize it, was developed a few years later. It was called 'self-reproduction software', and this means that the software simply kept a virus from creating copies of itself, which is the primary function of a virus. It really didn't protect the computer from a multitude of outside forces, like today's internet security software does.

Bitdefender in action

(Image credit: Bitdefender)

The actual removal of viruses using antivirus technology as we know it today didn't begin until the late 1980s. The first removal of a computer virus is believed to have been performed by the aptly named Bernd Fix in 1987. Fix, a computer security expert and living embodiment of nominative determinism, is credited with the removal of the Vienna Virus from a PC. The Vienna Virus is still used throughout the world, and it infects uninfected files in a computer every time an infected file is run. Fortunately, this virus can be detected and removed relatively easily with today's best antivirus software.

Some believe that Fix may not have been the first person to remove a computer virus, however, because right around the same time, the Atari Corporation developed G Data antivirus software, in conjunction with G Data Software, Inc. Soon after, G Data was followed by UVK 2000. These antivirus applications were developed for Atari Corporation's personal computer line that was created in 1985.

While there are multiple claims on being the 'first' antivirus software, one thing is clear to the millions of computer users that log on each year: thanks to those early programmers and computer-security pioneers, our computers and personal information are relatively safe from hackers and viruses. Not completely safe, as people constantly strive to undermine the technology we use, but the programs now are as sophisticated as the attacks used on them.