In the early days of computer viruses, a lot of malware had a tendency to announce its presence with some text or a flashy graphic. Now you can relive the sometimes funny, but often crappy reality of watching some of the earliest malware infect an MS-DOS computer.
The Malware Museum is now live at the Internet Archive. And like another collection there — an archive of MS-DOS games — the Malware Museum uses an emulator to let you watch the virus play out, safely.
Mikko Hypponen, a computer security expert who has spent decades analysing, collecting and writing about viruses, curated the collection, which is a collaboration with the Internet Archive's Jason Scott. The destructive parts of the viruses in the collection have been removed, and aren't going to hurt your current machine. The collection of '80s and '90s viruses includes the Casino virus, which actually forces the unfortunate computer user to play a game (warning, the program potentially contains some bad language):
"The casino virus is neat," Hypponen explained in a 2011 talk that accompanies the collection. "It actually takes a copy of your file allocation table to memory, then it overwrites it on your hard drive.
"So, you've just lost all your files," he explains. "But it has a copy in RAM, right? And now it lets you play a game." Basically, if you win the game — nicknamed Disk Destroyer — it writes your file allocation table back to the drive, restoring your stuff. If you lose, well, you lose your files too.
Other old viruses, like COFFSHOP, displayed a political message:
And some just made fun of you:
You can check out the full collection at The Malware Museum.
The Washington Post