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Elk Cloner

Elk Cloner

Elk Cloner definition

Elk Cloner was among the first computer viruses to spread outside a controlled laboratory environment. The virus propagated through floppy disks: when a computer booted from a disk infected with Elk Cloner, it would install itself in the computer’s memory. Any other floppy disk used with that computer would become infected, too.

Elk Cloner was not designed to be harmful — it didn’t delete or corrupt data. However, it overwrote reserved tracks of Apple DOS disks without a standard image.

Upon the 50th boot from an infected disk, Elk Cloner displayed a short poem on the screen:

Elk Cloner: The program with a personality
It will get on all your disks
It will infiltrate your chips
Yes, it’s Cloner!

It will stick to you like glue
It will modify RAM too
Send in the Cloner!

See also: computer virus, anti-malware, antivirus

History of Elk Cloner

  • Creation. Richard Skrenta, a 15-year-old high school student, created Elk Cloner in 1981. Skrenta was already known among his friends for pranking by altering game disks to crash after a certain number of plays. When he found that his friends were reluctant to share games with him for fear of these pranks, he developed a new method to distribute his code.
  • Spread. Its ability to spread from machine to machine via shared floppy disks made it one of the first computer viruses to spread to multiple computers in the non-laboratory, real-world environment.
  • Legacy. The creation of Elk Cloner marked the beginning of the era of computer viruses. Following its appearance, the development of antivirus software became necessary, leading to the cybersecurity industry as we know it today.

Further reading

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