Catch old viruses: The Internet Archive adds a museum of DOS malware

Would you like to try out a virus? You probably don't hear an offer like this a lot. But now it's time to seriously think about it - as a newly established Malware museum offers just that. It's a collection of old viruses, worms and other malicious software hailing from the long-passed ages of DOS and it allows visitors to experience their effect firsthand, right in the browser.


  • 24. 03. 2016
  • 4 min read
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But there’s no need to be afraid of potential data loss or system corruption. Every bit of malicious code has been cut out from the malware, so you can experience its behaviour without destructive consequences. 

The internet museum currently boasts 78 malware specimen from the DOS era. There are many interesting bits of code among the exhibits, like the “very kind” virus Skynet – that decided to help the user out by slowing down his computer – or the insidious Casino that forced the user to play a slot machine game for all the data on his hard drive.

The virus called Skynet decided that the user must be tired by now. So it “helped” the only way it could. By slowing down the pc.

The viruses-made-safe run in a JavaScript instance of the DosBox emulator in any browser. If you are technically inclined, you can even download the source code for the viruses to see what makes them tick.

Many of these ancient viruses were coded just as a mischievous prank or as a way to spread an opinion or an ideology. Many did nothing worse than stop the user from doing his work for a while – whether by making all the characters on screen scatter around or by forcing the pc to hang on a screen showing a slightly immature message. Only some of them, like the Casino mentioned above, were outright dangerous for data. Even though users experiencing viruses back in the era of DOS had their life made somewhat more difficult, when compared to today’s malicious software, these viruses look simplistic and like just a bit of fun.


The three weirdest DOS viruses – The good, the weird and the colourful

1) The kind virus SkynetThe previously mentioned Skynet virus took over the computer (which was much easier back in the days of DOS than today) by infecting programs and loading into memory. Then he showed the user a screen with text saying that they must be too tired. And that the virus decided to slow down the pc. The infected computer had to deal with a load so big that it slowed down to a crawl.

2) A weird thing name WalkerThe virus called Walker took over control and let an animated character of an old man walk across the screen indefinitely. Apparently, he was one of the baddies from a Bop n’ Rumble game for the old Commodore 64. Maybe it was the favourite game of the virus’ creator? We might never know.

3) LSD: The most colourful virus everSome malware creators were gifted coders as well. One of them managed to create a virus that earned the nickname LSD. After it was run, it started playing a full-screen animation of a plasma effect, i.e. one that looks like a lava lamp. A great feat of coding at the time. And at least the victims were entertained.

Malware museum was created by the Internet archive – a portal collecting websites and saving them for future generations. Most people have come across its Wayback Machine that allows visitors to roam through websites dating back from the eighties and nineties. It includes Czech sites as well, making it possible to look at some really poor design choices – like this brown Czech news website from 1998.

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