'Malware Museum' Serves Up Nerdy Art

Malicious software can steal your personal information and, sometimes, your cash. But it can also entertain and amuse—in hindsight, at least.

The Internet Archive has launched the Malware Museum, a collection of programs—mostly viruses—distributed on home computers in the 1980s and '90s. "Once they infected a system, they would sometimes show animation or messages that you had been infected," the website's description said, so if that's your thing, check it out.

The current collection was created by Internet Archive software curator Jason Scott and F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen, and has 79 different examples of old-school malware.

Anyone can access the compilation from the safety of an in-browser DOS simulator and download them in various forms. The Internet Archive has removed anything destructive, though.

Sort through classics like Ambulance, which features an animated ASCII emergency vehicle traveling across the screen; or discover obscure viruses like Italian, which shows a green, grey, and red flag with the simple message, "ITALY IS THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD."

 

The collection also includes the Frodo virus, a decades-old stealth malware that infected systems every Sept. 22—the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings.

And while The Internet Archive's collection represents only a sampling of the early days of malware—when folks were in it for a laugh, not your personal identity—it's certainly good for a walk down 8-bit memory lane.

The first PC virus to appear in the wild was 1982's Elk Cloner, created by a high school student as a practical joke. Almost 35 years later, security firm AV-TEST estimates nearly 500 million bugs crawling the Web.