30 years ago, hundreds of personal computers in the UK were struck by the awakening of a dormant virus. Friday 13th January 1989 really was one of bad luck for many.
Computers made by International Business Machines (IBM) were slowed down and files deleted by the virus, which attacks the MS-DOS files used to run the operating system of the device. Files are duplicated and swell to such a size that the machine can no longer hold the information.
The virus will have breached the computers but lay almost completely dormant until the Friday 13th date was reached, a day surrounded by many superstitions of bad luck. However, the virus did reportedly start to slow computers in the days before.
This attack is similar to the ‘Jerusalem’ virus, which originated in Israel 8 months earlier on the previous Friday 13th, in May 1988. This was just one day before the 40th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the state of Israel. Devices around Israel and Eastern Europe were affected, and strains of the virus continued to cause disruption for almost 8 years, with the last reported incident in 1995.
However, the origin of the British virus is disputed between researchers. Although it was initially thought to be a variation of the Jerusalem virus, there are strong indications to suggest that it originated in either Italy or South Africa in November 1987.
This isn’t the only virus to be activated on Friday the 13th. The Infosys worm causes the screen to malfunction, whereas the Frère virus will play the tune of Frère Jacques if the day is a Friday or it is the 13th day of any month.
A similar virus was also spread in America, activating on the next occurrence of a Friday 13th, October 1989. However, unusually for a ‘Timebomb’ virus the effects were predicted days before they were implemented, allowing some time for certain precautions to be taken. It was thought that this virus would infect the ‘boot’ sector on the victim’s hard drive, rendering the machine unable to start unless the stored files were deleted. Fortunately, the effects were not as widespread as feared due to the inability for the virus to become memory resident.
Modern computer viruses are much more complex and difficult to predict and can penetrate devices to steal data often without any noticeable effects. In order to protect the computers in your business, they should all have a strong antivirus protection. SeaBro IT are partners with Avast, named by techradar.com as the Best Business Antivirus 2019, and can therefore provide you with unbeatable defence from all attackers in all forms.
Contact us to find out more about how we can help keep your business secure.