5 Sites to Learn the History of Malware

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Have you ever wondered what computer viruses looked like before the Internet, and how they spread? Do you wish you could get a hands-on look at some of the most notorious malware in history? Keep reading.

Today’s Cool Websites and Apps, where MakeUseOf points out five sites we’ve yet to mention, has a few sites that let you experience malware from the pre-Internet age. There are also a few sites outlining the most notorious malware of history, and another that might give you a few extra minutes off work. Let’s get started.

Malware Museum: Experience Glorious 90s Malware in Your Browser, Risk Free

Ever wonder what malware looked like in the DOS era? Now you have a chance, thanks to this collection of infections hosted by the Internet Archive. That’s right: the same site that lets you play classic DOS games in your browser for free has a collection of malware you can check out right in your browser. Everything is emulated in DOSBox, and cannot infect your system, so browse with confidence.


You’ll notice the malware is whimsical, sometimes featuring some great pixel art and generally trying to amuse. It sounds innocent today, but in the early days of mass computing a virus was more likely to be a self-propagating prank than much of an actual problem. This museum stands as a testament to that simpler time, before ransomware scams and other cash-grabbing malware came to dominate our understanding of the word “malware”.

Computer Virus Catalog: An Illustrated Guide to History’s Greatest Infections

Would you like to learn about the worst computer viruses of all time? This site offers a quick summary of several, along with elaborate illustrations from a wide variety of artists.


You can quickly browse the viruses with the arrow keys. It’s a quick read, but the art alone is well worth the cost of admission. I recommend taking your time and enjoying this one. Maybe head back to the Malware Museum and try a few of these viruses out after reading about them.

History of Malware: A Timeline of Threats, from the 70s On

Continue your dive into the history of computer viruses with this timeline, which starts in the 1970s and works towards today. You’ll see screenshots of a bunch of malware from history.


There’s also a timeline you can drag to see all the malware in historical context. Things didn’t really get cooking until the 1980s, when floppies started moving from computer to computer. The Internet, of course, accelerated things considerably.


The Zoo: Archive of Old Viruses You Can Explore at Your Own Risk

I’m going to say upfront that you should only look at this site if you know what you’re doing. You’ve been warned.

The Zoo is a collection of actual malware files, offered on Github. Why would anyone actively collect malware, you ask? Education. “Malware DB’s purpose is to allow the study of malware,” the project’s About page says. You can download the entire archive, or browse the project on Github.


This is hardly a complete archive of every virus ever, but there are more than a few heavy hitters on offer. There’s Cryptolocker, for example, and more than a few root kits. If you want to learn how malware works, this is a good opportunity to see it in action. Running any of this malware on your computer is a terrible idea, however, so it’s recommended that you only run these in a virtual machine that doesn’t have Internet access. Maybe you could build your own virus aquarium.

Once again: this is not safe. These are real malware. You’ve been warned.

Happy Hour Virus: Convince Your Boss You Can’t Work Anymore Today

I’ll admit it: this site won’t teach you anything about malware, but it’s still fun. Sometimes a malware infection or computer crash is the perfect excuse to leave work early, and Happy Hour Virus celebrates that. This site lets you quickly simulate a computer crash.


Just click any of these three options and a full screen error will show up on your display, making it clear to everyone around you that your computer isn’t working. Don’t worry, though: you can get back to your desktop by hitting Escape. This might not fool the most tech-savvy boss, but it should be fine for a neophyte. Enjoy your extra half hour off.

How Do You Learn About Malware?

We’ve talked about where to find computer virus news and alerts, and how to see if your Mac has a virus, but there’s always more to learn.

Which is why I’m wondering: how do you learn about malware? Do you ever dig through the history of the humble computer virus, and if so which resources do you like? Let’s compile more knowledge in the comments below.

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