The Malware Hall of Fame: Michelangelo

The worlds of art history and computer viruses don’t often intersect but the birthday of Michelangelo, the Italian Renaissance man, may be more familiar to those in the world of anti-virus than art historians! We have the Michelangelo virus to thank for that.

What is it?

Michelangelo is an almost invisible virus that infiltrated the DOS and would operate from the computer’s BIOS level, remaining largely undetected by many computer users. A now low-threat virus, it caused a real infamous stir in the 90s.

Where does the name come from?
The virus was named in honour of Michelangelo the painter, sculptor, poet, and architect. The virus was only programmed to take action on every 6th of March, which happened to be Michelangelo’s birthday 516 years prior.

What it does:

  • Actively launched on the March 6th
  • Overwrote the first sector of every track on infected hard disks
  • Rendered recovery of data from PCs next to impossible – very few computers were connected to a network or backed up which didn’t help
  • Eventually caused the operating system to malfunction
  • Infected floppy disks inserted in an infected computer, causing any sharing to infected other computers as well

How was Michelangelo created?

  • Created in 1991 in Australia by Roger Riodan
  • The spread was slow due to the lack of internet and email, but still almost 5 million computers had become infected
  • The virus was very difficult to detect, so some manufacturers unknowingly shipped out floppy disks carrying the Michelangelo virus

Malware threats have only evolved since Michelangelo, but running a good antivirus and regular FixMeStick scan will help keep your computer clean and protected.