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Tech Time Warp

Apple products have a reputation for being immune to malware, but that is not 100 percent true. In 1988, hackers released two viruses targeting ProDOS, the Apple II operating system. Admittedly, it took hackers five years to attack ProDOS — the operating system was first released in 1983, but once hackers who convened via a bulletin board system (BBS) turned their attention to ProDOS and achieved success, their work packed quite a punch.

The first ProDOS virus was known as CyberAIDS, which attached itself to system files in the root directory of all mounted disks. Infected files could be identified because CyberAIDS moved six bytes from the start of a file to its end, adding a JMP and three $13 bytes in their place. The virus could unlock locked files, but it could not attack files on a write-protected disk.

In June 1988, CyberAIDS’ successor made its debut, emerging from the world of underground BBS. Festering Hate spread via a telecommunications program known as Zlink. Although Festering Hate relied on the CyberAIDS code base, instead of changing bytes to $13, Festering Hate changed them to different bytes adding up to $39. As it attacked files, Festering Hate displayed its name, a graphic of a needle injecting a floppy disk and—for an unknown reason—the Electronic Arts company logo and name. Then it switched to displaying the phone number of a private investigator named John Maxfield who specialized in investigating hacking and other cybercrimes.

Apple II programmers released anti-virus software to address CyberAIDS and Festering Hate, and it appeared that the hackers behind these viruses moved on. No further malware using this code base was detected. Apple stopped distributing ProDOS in 1993.

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Photo: ValDan22 / Shutterstock

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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