The Internet Archive has opened a new collection dubbed the Malware Museum that lets you run old DOS-era viruses in your web browser.
Running these cyber-fossils will take you back to the bad old days when code could do anything it liked on machines – security wasn't a consideration at all. As such, malware could blow away whole disks on certain dates, pop up badly written messages to interrupt your work, or mess around with text on your screen. Some viruses were particularly destructive, and others pretty harmless albeit infuriating as they infected files and disks.
You can also download the viruses from the collection if you wish to peek inside the executables.
"The Malware Museum is a collection of malware programs, usually viruses, that were distributed in the 1980s and 1990s on home computers," Archive.org notes.
"Once they infected a system, they would sometimes show animation or messages that you had been infected. Through the use of emulations, and additionally removing any destructive routines within the viruses, this collection allows you to experience virus infection of decades ago with safety."
Here are some of our favorites from the collection:
Casino was discovered in 1991, and it infects .COM programs, particularly COMMAND.COM. It is believed to have been written in Malta. When an infected executable is run, Casino installs itself quietly at the top of the PC's memory.
On January 15, April 15, and August 15, Casino will copy the hard drive's file system table into memory, delete the table from the disk, and force the user to play a slot machine game. If you hit the jackpot, the table is written back to the drive, so you get to keep your data intact. If you lose, Casino writes garbage to the file allocation table, destroying the file system unless you somehow manage to piece it back together with recovery tools.
Skynet was developed in China and discovered in 1994. it infects programs, and stays resident in memory. When an infected .COM file is run, Skynet is triggered: it takes over the PC, displays a message reference kickass 1990s sci-fi flick The Terminator, and then slow your computer down – or make it randomly hang. Annoying if you're trying to get work done.
This is a classic old-school virus that would take over your screen and make all the letters and symbols swirl and cavort until there's nothing left on the display except a black oblivion – a terrifying experience if you're putting the finishing touches to an important document. The Hydra family of malware was discovered in 1991, and it infects .COM files. It doesn't do anything except replicate and fuel the imagination of Hollywood screenwriters.
These days, malware steals your credit cards, or holds your data to ransom. Bring back the rainfalls of ASCII characters, please. ®