20 Jan 2011 25 years ago today, the world’s first computer virus was born in Lahore, Pakistan — a development that would spawn countless problems for ordinary users and a multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to protecting the world’s information from malicious software. As reported by Time magazine, a shop in Pakistan called Brain Computer Services, run by a pair of brothers, Amjit and Basit Farooq Alvi, was in the business of selling brand-name computer programs for minimal prices. This resulted in steady traffic from American backpackers and students keen to snap up the bargain prices. But unbeknownst to the users, the floppy disks that they were taking home contained a few lines of malicious code. The code spread from one computer to another. Before long, the so-called Brain or Pakistani virus had found its way onto at least 100 000 floppy disks, sometimes with data-destroying impact. Apparently the brothers came up with the idea for the virus after they realised that some computer software which they had written was being copied without their permission. But there is more to the story: The brothers only sold the infected discs to foreigners, Pakistanis were given clean, uncontaminated goods. According to Time, “The brothers’ somewhat confused rationalisation hinges on a loophole in Pakistani law. According to Basit, copyright protection in Pakistan does not extend to computer software. Then why infect American buyers? ‘Because you are pirating,’ said Basit. ‘You must be punished.’” Sometime in 1987, the brothers decided that they had taught the world a lesson, and stopped selling their infected goods. But the rabbit was out of the bag and the computer virus in all its forms has been with us ever since.