Happy99, the first virus spread by email | Digital Trends Spanish


In the days of Windows 98 and Windows NT, in the late 1990s, one of the most common uses of email was to send messages that today would fall into the category of viral. We called them chains and there were all kinds: jokes, religious promises that would be fulfilled only if we forwarded them to at least 10 users and of course, congratulations. The New Year of 1999 served for one of these viral emails to spread what is considered the first email virus: Happy99.

Identified on January 20, 1999, just a few days after thousands of users opened the email that arrived accompanied by an attachment that displayed fireworks, an international symbol of the New Year celebrations. But behind the cute animation was a malware, a Trojan worm that infected the winsock32.dll file, the main Windows communications library to the internet.

Then came the spread. Happy99 —also known as SKA.A by the name of the file it installed— had the ability to forward itself to other contacts without the user even opening their mail. By March 2000, the cybersecurity company Trend Micro considered Happy99 to be the most common virus, with computers infected in North America, Europe, and Asia.

What was the solution against Happy99?

Months later, computer security expert Craig Scmugar published a downloadable solution that prevented the Happy99 infection. The virus could also be removed from the computer manually by locating and deleting the ska.exe and ska.dll files. Another way to avoid infection, with or without the security patch, was to change the settings of the winsock32.dll file to read-only to prevent modification by the virus.

But even when users got rid of the infection, the damage was actually done. Happy99 proved that it was possible to install a computer virus on a global scale in something as innocuous as a greeting spread by an increasingly popular tool, email.

Until now, many unsuspecting people continue to fall for malware and scams via email. A path that has not yet been closed.

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