The Jerusalem Virus, Part 1
Hello and welcome to malicious life. My name is Ron Levy. May be hard to believe. But the concept of antivirus is only just over thirty years old now the first ever documented case of an antivirus software was created in early nineteen eighty-seven by then fix. Jim hacker in order to defeat dot com. Infecting virus called Vienna. Nineteen eighty-seven you could say was when antivirus was born because this new approach to commission security would go on to be invented separately multiple times over in different countries around the world that same year. This brings us to the subject of today's episode of our show later that same year third-inning virus was discovered the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the program to peered heads the ability to lead the computers worth of data to win scholars and researchers in Israel at the time were intrigued and concern a new they had. To do something nowadays, though, the story of this virus has much less view the damage it caused than the good it ushered in this virus was nicknamed the Jerusalem barris and happened to trigger series of events that combination in something very rare birth of an entire national industry. Okay. My name is Vora Covey, and I'm playing with computer scene. Say was probably seven years old today was computers quite common common enough. But is quite common. When I was eleven years old. It was very common because it was predate the era of PC's. And I was extremely lucky is at my father was a physics professor, and he was using computers seen sa- fifties. Actually, the actually use the first computer in Israel. So I was exposed to computers since a very young age. When you've reached adulthood, he enrolled in the computer science program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem wireless student. He also ran a tiny software company with his friend and fellow student mon- while at the university you've reconnected with two old friends of his. Elliot and Neil about cut during this time. I was already had a company that I was a founder off which road softer for cable television's what happens nearby Koch will was later sealed off bear. And. Now just finished his role is the mayor of Jerusalem came to to to Elliot Lee was his brother who was studying means university, and he near study visits ministration. And you said, look, you don't know how to run a company, you know, you should do this this you can be a big company you into to the vice hiring Elliott and near to the team. They would name the company b of him after the initials of each of their names be cut of a Covey. Am Mon which was really the name. Preferred preferred much nicer names. But that that that that was the last name at least and. We we didn't know that you have to reverse before submitting it if you really want the name that you want. So we we got the last released, but so we're we're stuck Mizzou's name into today. Still all beer 'em. Head at its own set were few technically, gifted engineers and a business leader. They didn't even really know what to make that was until one fateful day in November of nineteen eighty-seven when the phone rang in new vase womb. Then you know, lex strike lacquer unluck. Actually, it depends. How you look at it. Because one day on recalls me and says, we'll come to my home. There's something wrong with the computer. Then asking him what what should they bring? Should they bring a screwdriver or soldering machine? Whatever kind of seems to bring when computer doesn't work right says, no, no, no, just come. You've got up and nearly ran all the way to we to witness something they couldn't quite understand. But understood the gravity and came to him. And he shows me very interesting phenomenon you're on program has a certain sized running to to get to be meager running again, you'd get bigger than you run in other programs. Also, get bigger every time only ran filed on his computer this odd program. He didn't recognize got larger and larger in size. It was as if just by using his computer only was feeding this strange beast, what could possibly be. It was while they set together and looked over the program's code that the to computer science students recalled an article date seem not so long before sent to them by a member of the departments faculty. It was groundbreaking article from Dr Fred Cohen pioneer information security was the first to analyze computer viruses, from a mathematical point of view. It was then that the two students realized what they had on their hands real-life computer virus inaction lucky for us. I got I was as part of my studies. Had an exercise to Reichel problem. The goes over the fire system in the prints the name of each file each directory. So we took this girl Graham, and we do some this assembly for the for the programs of got bigger, and we found how out what house virus works. We wrote some code to remove these fires and was another thing that we did lavar said the bug and Trine the same file again, and again, but the ways of our swirls the first time you're renting program, we can stalled Sophian memory and every programs Taran. Was got infected now before installing itself you memory to check. If it's already installed in memory. And if it was already installed memory did not install it itself again. So we made use of this fact, and we wrote a small very tiny programs. That's actually told the virus. Yes. You're install. So if you ran this program beforehand, you're immune to the virus. So because of our said, oh, I'm installed only to install myself. So that was the first stepping in in our first of all to cook disabled Leeson's removed, and we gave away. So I I remember that I was very hesitant Twizere actually talk about it or not because I was afraid let's say DEA Friday, computer virus? If we'll go over the media to become very popular because it is actually very interesting. If you think for ya for number two. Program or for a programmer is the closest you can become to Klay God, you're actually kind of creating a life. And I was sure that it would be they DEA will get publicity many more people will start playing in ragging, viruses, that who become a huge problem as you've only Elliott Neil were just getting the company moving also to only a few tens of miles away was on the verge of losing his. Founded his software company iris all on his own addicted prior at its peak iris was a thriving organization employing dozens of workers in more recent years, though, major debt and in sufficient sales threaten to company with bankruptcy and forced to lay off his employees's and mass by November of nineteen eighty-seven iris was down to just three employee's total, including offer himself often became so desperate that he contemplated taking out a second mortgage on his house before friends and family stepped into convince him how foolish move that would have been wasn't as natural technology enthusiasts as Yuval and growing up in the seventies. He'd studied violin and continued that track through college knowing the financial pitfalls of music career decided he'd do a major in math as all Israelis. Of a given age are went to the Israeli defence forces after school. And while there was tasked with the production of statistical reports for military use the creation of these reports was done at the time with the help of mainframe computers coming to the times leveraging the technical acumen he'd build up while enlisted and abandoning career as a professional violinist at age twenty eight founded iris irises primary product fittingly enough was a software designed for producing statistical reports offer had written the program himself which worked on the smaller personal computers that began to be sold in Israel around this time iris flagship product was a market success selling to large and small corporations. And even the idea where off I learned the skills to build such a program, the company hired, more employees and developed the product line to incorporate encryption and Infosys. Related products. Then things started to take ten for the worse off filed suit against a former colleague of his we claimed had copied the code from his flagship statistical reports software to create a competing product that lawsuit would last nearly an entire decade reaching all the way to Israel's supreme court did end up winning the case, but between attorney's fees and emotional stress the victory didn't hold so much weight. Not only that the time and energy wasted head seemingly taken the huge tall and his business. Iris's products began to fall off in quality over time and customers gradually began moving. Elsewhere at the end of it all all offer head was one sales manager one software engineer, and tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. Bankruptcy loomed. Let me pause for a moment. To provide some context here have you ever encountered a computer virus, maybe on your own machine. Everybody hates virus? Besides, of course, the hackers themselves. It's just so annoying to deal with and at worst hugely harmful to your tests and data even your finances. This probably never been one person who's being happy about a computer virus? That would make no sense. Right. But wait what about a man who has nothing to lose? Whose company is going bankrupt life torn apart by bitter legal battle with the form of friend. And no prospects are hopes to hold onto. You know, nineteen eighty-seven Komen distributor Irish software in northern. Israel began receiving reports from confused customers about the strange file rowing on all of their computers. Come mill not knowing what to do themselves past in news onto affiliate to fail gave a copy of an infected this to the one remaining programmer, his company the programmer went off on his way. And then came back a few hours later in total astonishment this. He said was the very first instance he's ever seen. He professional computer programmer of a software, which replicated self feel. And his colleagues set the computer carefully reviewing the strange code trying to understand its mechanisms offer may not have known it that day, but he was about to become the happiest man to ever have contracted a computer virus. Militia slice is brought to you in collaboration with cyber cyber allows you to gain the upper hand by taking an entirely new approach to cyber security stopping violence male wear lateral movement and even zero days connect the dots and gain unmatched visibility with cyber. Learn more cyber dot com. At this point in our story and his programmer where two of the handful of people including the guys it be of 'em. And a select few other computer professionals aware that there was now very revival spreading all over the country fail took this dire situation as an opportunity realizing there was now a market for an entirely new software product, something that could get rid of this self replicating program knowing that the window of opportunity to be the first market would close soon. Offer programmer got down and dirty conceiving and building software to counter the virus. But it got more complicated. They'd have to come up with a program that could beat not just this program, but any future variants and durations of this software. So the two men design the software that would scan computer to locate fires infected by the virus. Date seen as well as any similar enough virus that may come in the future. With the code ready. All they had to do was give the new product a name because the word virus wasn't widely used to describe computer programs in nineteen eighty seven. They couldn't just call the program. You know, antivirus figured however that people did know about the biological aids. Virus clearly off wasn't as talented marketer. As he was a programmer when he released his brand new product to the market called anti aids similar programs to anti aids where released around the same time in the US and UK but offer his claimed that his was the first commercial antivirus in world history. I can't confirm whether that's true or not. But what we can't assume is that those American and British products, probably had much better names offer, any still remaining employees couldn't have been more timely when just as they finish designing the law. I go for anti aids. The story about a new virus threatening Israel's computer systems broke in the press. It was then that phenomena got its name Jerusalem virus? So here we are at Hebrew University. Yuval and is free friends at B O M A trying to beat the Jews at virus. A short drive away to colleagues are trying to do the same citizens around the country starting to get word of what's going on. It wouldn't be long before. More copies of the virus would make their way out of the country and around the globe. But what was this so-called Jerusalem virus what caused it to capture the minds of a nation. Jerusalem wasn't the first virus of its kind computer. Scientists had already seen instances of self replicating programs years earlier also wasn't the very first virus that was designed with the intention of causing damage to host computers. In nineteen eighty six Lee, high university personnel encountered virus that would erase all information on the host discs that virus caused a commotion at the Pennsylvania based school that ultimately was stopped before we could escape the confines of the campus. Jerusalem was different primarily for one key trait. It was what we'd call a logic bomb activated only if a certain condition is realized Jerusalem when activated would delete only formation on its host, computer. And it's condition that the date would be Friday, defer. That just seems cheeky now doesn't it clearly Jerusalem's rider was having a little bit of fun by giving the militias program. Malicious activation date researchers to the date. Seriously. Looking back to see if any significant Disraeli historical events had fallen on a Friday. The teams of past years conspiracies were floated but non given any credence more evidence. Started to float in that Jerusalem. Wasn't as scary as everybody had previously thought when researchers discovered it was simply a reworked version of a previously known virus Serie three three being virus spelled backwards because it couldn't get any worse. Sereved three was it surf mash up of two earlier, viruses, Serie one and serve to those viruses. Where not designed to destroy any information. Like Jews him was. Instead there were simple. Logic bombs, which if it were April first of the year would produce a message quote, April. I ha ha you have virus discovering its connection with the sereved viruses. Only open the field wider for who. Jews. Limbs writer could have been really any amateur could have done the work even calling the specimen virus writer might be a misnomer here. It doesn't take genius to change a date in function in a simple program. Still the media hype around Jerusalem caused it to spawn horde of other equally uncreative spun often containing blatant airs one version of Jewison in for instance, changed victimization date of the original program from Friday the teams to simply the seventh day of the week. That is the first Saturday after infecting a new machine what the novice rider of this virus failed to realize is that in the computer world counting generally begin. Not with one but zero so a computer program might consider Sunday not day one of the week, but they zero and Monday day one because of this Saturday would be day six and the seventh day of the week as stood in computer code. Simply does not exist. Needless to say, this vision of the virus was completely harmless bomb that could never go off. The market for a program to combat the Jews in virus burst light oak. The rumor that do students at the Hebrew University found a cure spread quickly. And from he end Yuval distributed copies of their program free of charge to anyone who I was interviewed on CNN on on on on many, many medias and. The story got out. And of course, a few weeks later was another virus in the days later virus actually found ourselves updating our program to to to be able to look to a dentist by remove more and more viruses. And then actually we in that first of all is long as we are virus. Specifics that means that our soccer is actually working against a specific viruses. We are not in the position ethically for asking money for the software because then people say, oh, those clouds they rides of ours lens. They sell us antivirus. So. The same. Hebrew, good name is more important than the good money, and we actually acted according to the rule, and we we gave away suffer. So will be no reason to say that we're writings virus seeing the hole in the market. Other software companies stepped in and created their own antivirus programs co mill the northern-based distributor of of iris product released their own tubal onto virus and the firm called Iliad Cheam who found IRS where mentors to Uvira coffee back in the days at these rarely air for stick nickel school devised. Their own program called virus safe. These antivirus solutions made use of the same technique scanning computers to identify the unique signatures of known viruses. And this case primarily the Jerusalem virus scanning for signatures like this does work for relatively simple viruses by they are. Obvious longer term problems with the method think about it every time in new virus shows up in the world. An update to the program has to be written an installed to account for that new signature, of course, in November nineteen eighty-seven new kinds of viruses weren't cropping up. All that often. It allowed Elliott seem for example to distribute new versions of their software by using a messenger and a scooter who went around to customers hand, delivering new discs every few months. These listeners were the good old days of cyber security. But time would go on and you're more complex viruses. He seen as new viruses continue to get better to the old means of antivirus would become obsolete. Think about how much time and resources it takes to review the data on each and every file on a computer. Theoretically, you could speed up the process by localizing the scan to send files and not others. But doing so risks the possibility that an unsuspected sophisticated virus could sleep past. But before that even in new products entering the market Jerusalem virus was spreading faster than it could be put out. Luckily, there was a man who stood to benefit from the chaos in our next episode. We'll pick up the story where we've just left off as tubes fortunes changed forever. Uvira Covey receives. An incredible surprise in front of thousands of people and these rarely antivirus industry blows up perhaps a bit too big. All that to come next time on malicious life. That's it. Thank you for listening as always visit malicious dot live to subscribed. Bod cast. We'd full transcripts and download it can find us on Twitter at militias life and ran living. Life is produced by PI media. Thanks again to cyber reason fund writing the podcast LAN more cyber dot com. Bye.