05/12/2021

076 – Fighting viruses – 1987

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The problem of viruses is temporary and will be solved in two years.  John McAfee

Born in England John McAfee studied mathematics at Roanoke College and worked at NASA’s Institute for Space Studies before moving to UNIVAC as a software designer and later to Xerox where he specialised in operating systems.

1987 – while working at Lockheed his equipment was infected by the Brain virus and he wrote anti-virus software which he distributed as shareware.  In 1989 he founded MacAfee Associates to pursue a business in anti-virus software.

1989 – he founded MacAfee Associates to pursue a business in anti-virus software.  McAfee VirusScan was early in offering an enterprise-wide product.  McAfee also detected the first virus used with Linux.  The company became Network Associates for seven years before reverting to McAfee. 

2010 – Intel acquired McAfee for $7.7bn.  Quoted on NASDAQ, it claims to be the world’s largest dedicated security company. 

1982 – with a National Science Foundation grant Gary Hendrix founded Symantec to investigate AI and database programs.  In 1984 the company was acquired by C & E Software, run by Denis Coleman and Gordon Eubanks. 

Still called Symantec it launched Q&A, an integrated database and word processor in 1985.  This was followed by a range of utility programs.

Peter Norton worked on mainframes and minicomputers at Boeing and JPL.  He developed a utility program allowing programmers to access memory IBM had reserved for diagnostic routines.  Working on an early IBM-PC he lost a file and this prompted him to write a routine to recover it from the disk.

1982 – he founded Peter Norton Computing Inc and wrote Norton Utilities software.  He published two successful books – IBM PC: Access to Advanced Features & Programming (Techniques) and The Peter Norton Programmer’s Guide to the IBM PC.  He also wrote articles for leading PC magazines, becoming an acknowledged authority on computer security. 

Symantec acquired Peter Norton Computing in 1990 for $70m.  This acquisition by Symantec tripled revenues and Norton AntiVirus became the market leader.  

A further series of high-profile acquisitions built the organisation into a $6bn revenue operation by the late noughties with anti-virus representing around a third of business.

Grisoft in the former Czechoslovakia in 1992 launched the AVG program, anti-virus guard.  By offering an AVG Free Edition the company promoted itself extremely well and there were over 100million users by the end of the noughties.

The Kaspersky Anti-Virus program, launched in 1997 by the Kaspersky Labs in Moscow Russia, offered protection from malware, malicious software, with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Ad-Aware from Lavasoft in 1999 offered a means of alerting the user when a website viewed with Internet Explorer was tracking non-essential information.  More protective versions of Ad-Aware blocked these, added spyware and malware routines and offered an anti-virus component. Like most such battles the two sides win some and lose some – the malicious author manages to circumvent current controls and the anti-virus programs counter with a response.

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