Windows, Chicago and the virus writers’ concerns

April 8, 2015 · Filed Under In Depth, Security 

In Depth - A merciless lens pointed on the hot topics, passionate and detailed retrospectives, reflections beyond the appearances In April 1994 computing was still young, operating systems worked from the command line and the PC still had to become the universal phenomenon which later turned into a commodity like everything else. Microsoft was about to radically change things by releasing Windows 95, but there was another group of technophiles concerned with the generation leap from the prompt to the windows-based GUI and the consequences that it would have had on how the low-level code ran.

Windows 95, also known as Windows 4.0 or Chicago then, would have swept away the MS-DOS 16-bit real mode introducing a 32-bit protected mode, restricting the historical textual environment to a compatibility layer for emulating the DOS interrupts. Rock Steady, a member of the NuKE virus writers group, exposes his worries about the new 32-bit setup of Chicago in the eighth number of the Nuke Info Journal magazine: the new Windows version would have neutralized all the computer viruses released until then.

Windows 4.0 would have been incompatible with the file viruses created until 1994, Rock Steady wrote on April of the same year in the NuKE zine, it would have rendered boot viruses harmless with a new boot sector, and the worst part was that it would have introduced a new format for executable files provided with auto-check capabilities that would have made things pretty difficult for the infection routines previously used on DOS programs. The release of a fully 32-bit Windows would have been a remarkable challenge for virus writers, somewhat bringing the calendar back to 1986 (Brain) with a renewed race to developing the new generation parasitic code.

Microsoft Chicago

Later, history obviously proved the NuKe virus writer concerns to be wrong, the first, premature file virus for Windows 95 (Boza/VLAD) was released less than a year after the OS debut and computer viruses adapted to the new computing ecosystem with no issues by happily resuming infections of Master Boot Records (MBR), boot sectors, executable files, documents, dynamic libraries, kernel APIs, BIOS, firmwares and any other thing made of bits. VXers from the Nineties wanted to play god but they turned their terrific programming skills into a business. This, however, will be discussed the next time.

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