Reaper is considered to be the first antivirus program in history.
The origin of todays sophisticated computer viruses takes us back to 1949 when the American-Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann published a paper on the “Theory and Organization of Complicated Automata,” in which he proposed that a computer program could reproduce, which later became the most essential attribute of a computer virus.
But even though the theory about replication was somehow established through Neumann, it took another twenty years until the first computer virus was created, and this happened as the result of an experiment.
Creeper and Reaper
Creeper was the name of the experiment, and it was conducted in 1971 by the American engineer Bob Thomas, working at BBN Technologies, an American research and development company. Creeper was a computer program designed to move like a “worm” from one computer to the next using nodes of the ARPANET. The experiment had no malicious, harmful, or damaging intentions. It did not encrypt files, demand a ransom, or destroy data. It only displayed a teasing message to the teletype reading „I’M THE CREEPER; CATCH ME IF YOU CAN“, according to History Computer.
The idea behind the Creeper program was to demonstrate the possibility of a self-replicating computer program that could spread to other computers. The first version of Creeper did not have this ability, it could not multiply itself and spread. Ray Tomlinson, one of Bob Thomas’ colleagues at BBN Technologies, managed to change that. He developed an improved version of the Creeper that had the capacity to self-replicate and leave a copy of itself on infected computers. In 972, as a way of combating the improved version of Creeper, he created the first antivirus program in history, called Reaper. It was designed to chase and delete Creeper by moving across the ARPANET. Reaper is considered to be the first antivirus program in the history, and thereby the ancestor to today’s many sophisticated antivirus programs, reporting the PC Insider.
Creeper and Reaper where the first programs that exposed several flaws in the ARPANET’s network security. The exposure created a massive concern among governments and organizations all over the globe since they were linking their computers via the ARAPNET to create their own networks. Furthermore, groups of people started to recognize the flaws, and explored ways to infiltrate the network and steal relevant data, reporting SmarterMSP.
New ways to secure networks
By the middle of the 1970s, computer technology fast grew and expanded, which created a significant demand for new ways to secure networks. It became essential for computer programmers to focus on developing safe and secure systems of high quality, according to Careerera.
The U.S. government started to allocate resources to improve the security of networks. The Protection Analysis Project from The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was established. It looked at a wide range of topics, including identifying vulnerabilities. The project also worked on various aspects of operating system security and aimed to develop automatable methods for spotting vulnerabilities in software programs, delivering new insights to the industry, reporting Cyber-Security Degree.