Reaper is the world’s first antivirus program, although at the time it was made, in the early 1970s, there was no concept of an antivirus. Reaper was created to combat the Creeper virus, which was the world’s first computer virus.
Creeper was created as an experimental program by Bob Thomas at Raytheon BBN Technologies, originally named Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. The Creeper program was designed to self-replicate itself and move between Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-10 computers using ARPANET, the precursor to the internet.
Reaper was created by Ray Tomlinson, an American computer programmer well-known to implement the first email program on ARPANET. The Reaper antivirus was designed to delete any instance of the Creeper program that it would find from the DEC computers, marking the beginning of the cybersecurity industry.
When the Creeper program was made with no malicious intent. It is harmless as it only displayed the message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can”. The Creeper was simply designed to move like a “worm” from one computer to the next using nodes of the ARPANET. As it moved to the next computer, Creeper was designed to erase its old version. The technique used in the Creeper virus was later used in the air traffic simulator programs.
The self-replicating nature of Creeper made it categorized as a virus, although there was nothing malicious about it. It affected 28 DEC mainframe devices and went down in history as the first computer virus program. The video game Core Ware was inspired by the Creeper and Reaper computer programs.
Computer viruses in modern times have evolved into more complex and sophisticated programs including spyware, Trojan horses, keyloggers, and ransomware. The antivirus programs have also evolved over the years to tackle different types of computer viruses.
Although the Creeper virus does not appear to be a problem for businesses of today, similar viruses can cause issues. Reaper might not be sophisticated enough to handle modern-day viruses, therefore businesses should look at updated versions of antivirus programs, security protocols, employee awareness and training, and other methods to combat the ongoing threat of computer viruses.