Pakistani Brain (IBM MS-DOS PC Computer Virus)

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Brain Telecommunications Ltd. The place where Brain was created.
Brain ("Pakistani Brain") was the very first PC computer virus,[1][2][n. 1] and the first stealth virus in history.[3][n. 2] It was created in Lahore, Pakistan, and first formulated in 1984, being released in September 1986.[4] It was spread using bootleg (pirated) copies of American software programs (such as "Lotus 1-2-3"), which were sold for less than $5 dollars per copy.[5] The virus was created by two 19 year old brothers,[3]—Basit and Amjad Farooq Alvi[6]—who ran a computer company named "Brain Computer Services", who became increasingly frustrated that their own software was also getting pirated.[7][8][n. 3] The creators wanted to punish the pirates.[5] They wanted to retaliate, and so they wrote a viral code every time a copy of their products were made.[7] The first version initially infected 360KB floppy disks, by taking over the boot sector of the disk, and transferred the original boot sector to another part of the disk.[5] This new location was then certified as "bad" in the file allocation table ("FAT"), and so the disk operating system (DOS) would not show it as an entry or attempt to write on the floppy disk.[5] Thereafter the virus redirects all the boot sector requests back to the original boot sector but remains in control of the machine.[5] Inserting a clean floppy disk to an infected computer will then cause it to also become infected.[5] Additionally, the Brain virus also renames the volume label of the diskette to be read as "(c)Brain".[5] By 1992, two further strains were discovered.[5] These other varients were the "Brain-B" virus and the "Brain-C" virus.[5] The former behaves the same way as the original, but with the additional capability of infecting the hard disk.[5] The second behaves as the "Brain-B" virus, except that the volume label "(c)Brain" is removed.[5] In 1992, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) stated that it was "one of the best written viruses ever".[5] It was designed to cause significant amounts of damage (though certain sources claim that it didn't; even though evidence exists it did[9]).[7][n. 4]
In this way, Brain was the first reported virus that fit into the definition of harmful.[7] The virus actually spread farther than the brothers had intended,[4] The University of Maryland (others say Delaware[10]) discovered the virus was present in the US (on October 22nd, 1987[11]),[12] and that it had spread to thousands of machines (20,000[13]—250,000[14][15]). Initially, the brothers were simply curious about how IBM DOS worked, and wanted to experiment with it; "We were experimenting with a few things. One thing was whether in DOS we can have multitasking...[t]he DOS was something new and when we explored the security issues of DOS [we] realized it was possible [to infiltrate] it with a piece of code...[We wanted] to find out how the floppies and how the programs and software move around...[w]e [could] see and watch whether it’s going to spread around the world or remain within a certain group of people".[16] The virus was designed in an extremely clever way; normally, the virus would be too large to fit into the boot sector (and in fact if it is loaded into the boot sector it would take up it's entire memory and more, which would therefore make it impossible to run).[17] The brothers designed the virus in such a way as to store the first 512 bytes in the boot sector, and then store the rest of the code, along with the remaining virus code in six different portions of the floppy disk.[17] The location of the virus can be found at cylinder 0, head 0, sector 1; the first sector on the disk.[17] When it is found by the computer, the executable functions io.sys, command.com, config.sys and autoexec.bat are loaded.[17] However, it was not until a few years ago that the virus was rendered completely harmless.[7][n. 5] This was only ever possible because of the change in 5.25 inch floppy disks to 3.5 inch floppy disks.[7] Aryeh Goretsky, who is a personal friend of John McAfee of McAfee Antivirus company, had his first contact with Brain when he worked as a technical support engineer; it was his first assignment within his designated role.[18]
Mikko Hypponen traced the origins of Brain to Pakistan and visited the brothers who reside in the same residence they wrote the code in.
Brain was the first PC computer virus in history that targeted the MS-DOS computer systems on IBM computers. It was created in Lahore, Pakistan.
The Brain message on an infected PC.[19]

John McAfee in 1989.
The influence that Brain had had—following its subsequent release—is particularly relevant to the history of antivirus software; and more specifically so concerning McAfee Systems.[21] John McAfee, who would go on to contribute heavily to computer security, had extensive experience with Brain.[21] He initially worked with Lockheed Corp; when serendipitously he came across the Pakistani Brain.[21] He has been quoted as saying "it was an accident, like anything else in life"; his own computer had become infected, where the virus had erased his work files from his computer hard drive.[21] He managed to deactivate the virus himself, but with great difficulty.[21] In 1987, he left his employer and set up his own company in order to help others with their computer virus problems.[21] He went house to house fixing people's machines, travelling the country in his car.[21] Thus, Brain had eventually triggered McAfee to write a programme called VirusScan: this was the worlds first PC anti-virus software.[21] It could detect viruses and subsequently delete them.[21] His company became so lucrative that in 1994 he was worth $100 million dollars[22] (his company has since merged with the Intel Company, where his patent technology is now housed). By 1997 McAfee had a 68% share of the antivirus market.[23] Aside from Brain's influence on McAfee, it also had an impact on future coders, millions of whom created a multitude of viruses since Brain's inception. In the few decades since Brain's release, viruses have evolved into programmes that have caused hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage,[n. 6] and have became even more relevant in the world of cyber warfare, where viruses have the power to potentially damage the infrastructure of countries. In other words, viruses have become a weaponized tool, distinguished from classical warfare. The most famous example is StuxNet (created by the US and Israel;[24] designed to destroy Iran's defensive capabilities;[25] luckily Iran managed to destroy and purge the virus).[26]
Brain Telecommunications Ltd. The place where Brain was created.
Brain ("Pakistani Brain") was the very first PC computer virus,[1][2][n. 7] and the first stealth virus in history.[3][n. 8] It was created in Lahore, Pakistan, and first formulated in 1984, being released in September 1986.[4] It was spread using bootleg (pirated) copies of American software programs (such as "Lotus 1-2-3"), which were sold for less than $5 dollars per copy.[5] The virus was created by two 19 year old brothers,[3]—Basit and Amjad Farooq Alvi[6]—who ran a computer company named "Brain Computer Services", who became increasingly frustrated that their own software was also getting pirated.[7][8][n. 9] The creators wanted to punish the pirates.[5] They wanted to retaliate, and so they wrote a viral code every time a copy of their products were made.[7] The first version initially infected 360KB floppy disks, by taking over the boot sector of the disk, and transferred the original boot sector to another part of the disk.[5] This new location was then certified as "bad" in the file allocation table ("FAT"), and so the disk operating system (DOS) would not show it as an entry or attempt to write on the floppy disk.[5] Thereafter the virus redirects all the boot sector requests back to the original boot sector but remains in control of the machine.[5] Inserting a clean floppy disk to an infected computer will then cause it to also become infected.[5] Additionally, the Brain virus also renames the volume label of the diskette to be read as "(c)Brain".[5] By 1992, two further strains were discovered.[5] These other varients were the "Brain-B" virus and the "Brain-C" virus.[5] The former behaves the same way as the original, but with the additional capability of infecting the hard disk.[5] The second behaves as the "Brain-B" virus, except that the volume label "(c)Brain" is removed.[5] In 1992, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) stated that it was "one of the best written viruses ever".[5] It was designed to cause significant amounts of damage (though certain sources claim that it didn't; even though evidence exists it did[9]).[7][n. 10]
Mikko Hypponen traced the origins of Brain to Pakistan and visited the brothers who reside in the same residence they wrote the code in.
In this way, Brain was the first reported virus that fit into the definition of harmful.[7] The virus actually spread farther than the brothers had intended,[4] The University of Maryland (others say Delaware[10]) discovered the virus was present in the US (on October 22nd, 1987[11]),[12] and that it had spread to thousands of machines (20,000[13]—250,000[14][15]). Initially, the brothers were simply curious about how IBM DOS worked, and wanted to experiment with it; "We were experimenting with a few things. One thing was whether in DOS we can have multitasking...[t]he DOS was something new and when we explored the security issues of DOS [we] realized it was possible [to infiltrate] it with a piece of code...[We wanted] to find out how the floppies and how the programs and software move around...[w]e [could] see and watch whether it’s going to spread around the world or remain within a certain group of people".[16] The virus was designed in an extremely clever way; normally, the virus would be too large to fit into the boot sector (and in fact if it is loaded into the boot sector it would take up it's entire memory and more, which would therefore make it impossible to run).[17] The brothers designed the virus in such a way as to store the first 512 bytes in the boot sector, and then store the rest of the code, along with the remaining virus code in six different portions of the floppy disk.[17] The location of the virus can be found at cylinder 0, head 0, sector 1; the first sector on the disk.[17] When it is found by the computer, the executable functions io.sys, command.com, config.sys and autoexec.bat are loaded.[17] However, it was not until a few years ago that the virus was rendered completely harmless.[7][n. 11] This was only ever possible because of the change in 5.25 inch floppy disks to 3.5 inch floppy disks.[7] Aryeh Goretsky, who is a personal friend of John McAfee of McAfee Antivirus company, had his first contact with Brain when he worked as a technical support engineer; it was his first assignment within his designated role.[18]
Brain was the first PC computer virus in history that targeted the MS-DOS computer systems on IBM computers. It was created in Lahore, Pakistan.
The Brain message on an infected PC.[19]

John McAfee in 1989.
The influence that Brain had had—following its subsequent release—is particularly relevant to the history of antivirus software; and more specifically so concerning McAfee Systems.[21] John McAfee, who would go on to contribute heavily to computer security, had extensive experience with Brain.[21] He initially worked with Lockheed Corp; when serendipitously he came across the Pakistani Brain.[21] He has been quoted as saying "it was an accident, like anything else in life"; his own computer had become infected, where the virus had erased his work files from his computer hard drive.[21] He managed to deactivate the virus himself, but with great difficulty.[21] In 1987, he left his employer and set up his own company in order to help others with their computer virus problems.[21] He went house to house fixing people's machines, travelling the country in his car.[21] Thus, Brain had eventually triggered McAfee to write a programme called VirusScan: this was the worlds first PC anti-virus software.[21] It could detect viruses and subsequently delete them.[21] His company became so lucrative that in 1994 he was worth $100 million dollars[22] (his company has since merged with the Intel Company, where his patent technology is now housed). By 1997 McAfee had a 68% share of the antivirus market.[23] Aside from Brain's influence on McAfee, it also had an impact on future coders, millions of whom created a multitude of viruses since Brain's inception. In the few decades since Brain's release, viruses have evolved into programmes that have caused hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage,[n. 12] and have became even more relevant in the world of cyber warfare, where viruses have the power to potentially damage the infrastructure of countries. In other words, viruses have become a weaponized tool, distinguished from classical warfare. The most famous example is StuxNet (created by the US and Israel;[24] designed to destroy Iran's defensive capabilities;[25] luckily Iran managed to destroy and purge the virus).[26]

Sources

Footnotes

  1. ^ After Brain, a multitude of other viruses were created, which chiefly included viruses such as Jerusalem, Miami, Alameda, Cascade, and Lehigh.
    1. Peter H. Gregory (9 May 2011). Computer Viruses For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 217. ISBN 978-1-118-08547-9.
  2. ^ Quote: The Brain virus was reported in 1990 as comprising around 7 per cent of all reported infection incidents. The virus was also the first case of limited camouflage being employed. When the virus was active in memory no alteration of the boot sector (from its standard value) could be detected.
    1. David Ferbrache (6 December 2012). A Pathology of Computer Viruses. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-4471-1774-2.
  3. ^ Quote: Computer viruses are a special concern of computer users everywhere. Computer viruses were first brought to public attention in 1988, when the Pakistani virus (or Pakistani brain virus) became widespread in personal and office computers across the United States. The Paksitani virus was created by Amjad Farooq Alvi and his brother, Basit Farooq Alvi, two cut-rate computer sofr-ware dealers in Lahore, Pakistan. The Alvi brothers made copies of costly software products and were dealers in Lahore, Pakistan. The Alvi brothers made copies of costly software products and sold them at low prices, mostly to Western shoppers looking for a bargain. Motivated by convoluted logic, the brothers hid a virus on each disk they sold to punish buyers for seeking to evade copyright law.
    1. Frank Schmalleger (2007). Criminal justice today: an introductory text for the twenty-first century. Prentice Hall. p. 708. ISBN 978-0-13-171965-1.
  4. ^ Quote: "The Brain Virus targeted the IBM PC and was capable of destroying data describing the location of sectors making up files on a diskette and could even overwrite part of a file in the process of infection."
    1. Josef Pieprzyk; Thomas Hardjono; Jennifer Seberry (21 January 2003). Fundamentals of Computer Security. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 611. ISBN 978-3-540-43101-5.
  5. ^ However, there was one effective method of getting rid of it; and this was to infect the computer with another virus.
    Quote: "The Indonesian virus, Denzuko, is an example that uses this technique. Denzuko was released during the spring of 1988. Unlike with most other viruses, the author of this virus is known. It was written by Denny Yanuar Ramdhani. The nickname of the virus writer is Denny Zuko, which comes from "Danny Zuko", the character in the popular musical movie Grease played by John Travolta. This boot virus was among the first to implement a counter attack against another computer virus. Denzuko killed the Brain virus whenever it encountered it on a computer".
    1. Peter Szor (3 February 2005). The Art of Computer Virus Research and Defense. Pearson Education. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-672-33390-3.
  6. ^ Norton Security lists several viruses alone which in total have caused immense economic distress.
    1. Norton_Team (February 2016). The 8 Most Famous Computer Viruses of All Time. Norton UK Blog. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 31st, 2017.
  7. ^ After Brain, a multitude of other viruses were created, which chiefly included viruses such as Jerusalem, Miami, Alameda, Cascade, and Lehigh.
    1. Peter H. Gregory (9 May 2011). Computer Viruses For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 217. ISBN 978-1-118-08547-9.
  8. ^ Quote: The Brain virus was reported in 1990 as comprising around 7 per cent of all reported infection incidents. The virus was also the first case of limited camouflage being employed. When the virus was active in memory no alteration of the boot sector (from its standard value) could be detected.
    1. David Ferbrache (6 December 2012). A Pathology of Computer Viruses. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-4471-1774-2.
  9. ^ Quote: Computer viruses are a special concern of computer users everywhere. Computer viruses were first brought to public attention in 1988, when the Pakistani virus (or Pakistani brain virus) became widespread in personal and office computers across the United States. The Paksitani virus was created by Amjad Farooq Alvi and his brother, Basit Farooq Alvi, two cut-rate computer sofr-ware dealers in Lahore, Pakistan. The Alvi brothers made copies of costly software products and were dealers in Lahore, Pakistan. The Alvi brothers made copies of costly software products and sold them at low prices, mostly to Western shoppers looking for a bargain. Motivated by convoluted logic, the brothers hid a virus on each disk they sold to punish buyers for seeking to evade copyright law.
    1. Frank Schmalleger (2007). Criminal justice today: an introductory text for the twenty-first century. Prentice Hall. p. 708. ISBN 978-0-13-171965-1.
  10. ^ Quote: "The Brain Virus targeted the IBM PC and was capable of destroying data describing the location of sectors making up files on a diskette and could even overwrite part of a file in the process of infection."
    1. Josef Pieprzyk; Thomas Hardjono; Jennifer Seberry (21 January 2003). Fundamentals of Computer Security. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 611. ISBN 978-3-540-43101-5.
  11. ^ However, there was one effective method of getting rid of it; and this was to infect the computer with another virus.
    Quote: "The Indonesian virus, Denzuko, is an example that uses this technique. Denzuko was released during the spring of 1988. Unlike with most other viruses, the author of this virus is known. It was written by Denny Yanuar Ramdhani. The nickname of the virus writer is Denny Zuko, which comes from "Danny Zuko", the character in the popular musical movie Grease played by John Travolta. This boot virus was among the first to implement a counter attack against another computer virus. Denzuko killed the Brain virus whenever it encountered it on a computer".
    1. Peter Szor (3 February 2005). The Art of Computer Virus Research and Defense. Pearson Education. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-672-33390-3.
  12. ^ Norton Security lists several viruses alone which in total have caused immense economic distress.
    1. Norton_Team (February 2016). The 8 Most Famous Computer Viruses of All Time. Norton UK Blog. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 31st, 2017.

References

  1. ^ a b Guanrong Chen; Xiaofan Wang; Xiang Li (29 June 2015). Fundamentals of Complex Networks: Models, Structures and Dynamics. John Wiley & Sons. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-118-71811-7.
  2. ^ a b John Leyden (19th January 2006). PC virus celebrates 20th birthday. The Register. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved May 19th, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Adomi, Esharenana E. (30 April 2008). Security and Software for Cybercafes. IGI Global. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-59904-905-2.
  4. ^ a b c d Mikko Hypponen (9th March 2011). Brain: Searching for the first PC virus in Pakistan. YouTube (F-Secure). Retrieved May 19th, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Charles Ritstein (1 January 1992). Executive Guide to Computer Viruses. DIANE Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-56806-251-8.
  6. ^ a b Peter H. Gregory (9 May 2011). Computer Viruses For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-118-08547-9.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Robert Moore (25 September 2014). Cybercrime: Investigating High-Technology Computer Crime. Routledge. pp. 39. ISBN 978-1-317-52297-3.
  8. ^ a b Frank Schmalleger (2007). Criminal justice today: an introductory text for the twenty-first century. Prentice Hall. p. 708. ISBN 978-0-13-171965-1.
  9. ^ a b Ramesh Bangia (1 January 2008). Computer Fundamentals and Information Technology. Firewall Media. p. 53. ISBN 978-81-318-0296-0.
  10. ^ a b Philip Leith; Amanda Hoey (6 December 2012). The Computerised Lawyer: A Guide to the Use of Computers in the Legal Profession. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-4471-0593-0.
  11. ^ a b David Salomon (20 March 2006). Foundations of Computer Security. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-84628-341-3.
  12. ^ a b David J. Emmick (28 September 2009). Into the Cloud. Lulu.com. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-557-06437-3.
  13. ^ a b Eric Louw; Neil M. Duffy (3 December 1992). Managing computer viruses. Oxford University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-19-853974-2.
  14. ^ a b Deborah Russell; G. T. Gangemi (1991). Computer Security Basics. "O'Reilly Media, Inc.". p. 7. ISBN 978-0-937175-71-2.
  15. ^ a b Jussi Parikka (2007). Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses. Peter Lang. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-8204-8837-0.
  16. ^ a b Editor (January 18th, 2017). Flashback Wednesday: Pakistani Brain. We Live Security. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 23rd, 2017.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h Michael Gregg (13 August 2010). Build Your Own Security Lab: A Field Guide for Network Testing. John Wiley & Sons. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-470-37947-9.
  18. ^ a b Aryeh Goretsky (Unknown Date). Twenty years before the mouse. We Live Security. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 23rd, 2017.
  19. ^ a b Jonathan L. Heeney; Sven Friedemann (9 February 2017). Plagues. Cambridge University Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-316-64476-8.
  20. ^ a b c d Mikko Hypponen (Unknown Date). BRAIN Searching for the first PC virus in Pakistan. F-Secure. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 23rd, 2017.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Inventors and Inventions. Marshall Cavendish. 2008. p. 1032. ISBN 978-0-7614-7767-9.
  22. ^ a b Julia Naftulin (July 2nd, 2016). The crazy life of former fugitive and cybersecurity legend John McAfee. Business Insider. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 31st, 2017.
  23. ^ a b Ziff Davis, Inc. (21 January 1997). PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc. p. 160. ISSN 08888507.
  24. ^ a b Michael B Kelley (November 20th, 2013). The Stuxnet Attack On Iran's Nuclear Plant Was 'Far More Dangerous' Than Previously Thought. Business Insider. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 31st, 2017.
  25. ^ a b Jim Finkle (February 27, 2013). Weaponized computer virus Stuxnet hit Iran as early as 2007. The Globe and Mail. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 31st, 2017.
  26. ^ a b Mark Hosenball (February 14th, 2012). Experts say Iran has "neutralized" Stuxnet virus. Reuters. WayBackMachine Link. Retrieved October 31st, 2017.

External Links