Friday, June 15, 2007

Hacker Profile: Rich Skrenta

Hacker Warning SystemIn 1982, fifteen-year old Rich Skrenta became the author of the first computer virus with the ability to spread. While in high school, Rick would distribute video games to his classmates containing his Elk Cloner virus. The virus would embed itself into the Apple II's operating system and monitor the computer's disk drive activity. The Elk Cloner spread to other computers by copying it's code onto uninfected floppies. Like many of the early viruses, it was not designed to be harmful. On every fiftieth reboot, the virus would simply display the following message:
Elk Cloner

Rich SkrentaSkrenta's beatifully coded virus created a stir in the computer field. As a result, programmers began to pay much more attention to the design flaws in code that allowed for hackers to insert their craft. Skrenta went on to work for Commodore, Unix System Labs, Sun, and the Open Directory Project. He also designed a variety of MUDs (Multi-User Domains) and Usenet readers that were extremely popular on the early Internet. Today, he is the CEO of Topix.net, the world's largest community news website. This website also allows users to comment on stories as well as post their own news stories.