Fred Cohen was the first person to introduce the term “computer virus.” In a 1984 paper, he defined it as “a program that can ‘infect’ other programs by modifying them to include a possibly evolved copy of itself. With the infection property, a virus can spread throughout a computer system or network using the authorizations of every user using it to infect their programs. Every program that gets infected may also act as a virus and thus the infection grows.” (The original 1984 paper was eventually published in 1987.) Since then, the security company Kaspersky claims, rightly so, that “when it comes to cybersecurity, there are few terms with more name recognition than ‘computer viruses.’”
This bit of history has taken on new meaning now that the world is in the midst of a global pandemic caused by a biological virus, the novel coronavirus, that induces an unusual and novel disease, COVID-19.
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