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There are competing claims for the innovator of the first antivirus product. Possibly the first publicly documented removal of a computer virus in the wild was performed by Bernt Fix in 1987.

Before Internet connectivity was widespread, viruses were typically spread by infected floppy disks. Antivirus software came into use, but was updated relatively infrequently. During this time, virus checkers essentially had to check executable files and the boot sectors of floppy and hard disks. However, as internet usage became common, initially through the use of modems, viruses spread throughout the Internet.

Powerful macros used in word processor applications, such as Microsoft Word, presented a further risk. Virus writers started using the macros to write viruses embedded within documents. This meant that computers could now also be at risk from infection by documents with hidden attached macros as programs.

Later email programs, in particular Microsoft Outlook Express and Outlook, were vulnerable to viruses embedded in the email body itself. Now, a user’s computer could be infected by just opening or previewing a message. This meant that virus checkers had to check many more types of files. As always-on broadband connections became the norm and more and more viruses were released, it became essential to update virus checkers more and more frequently. Even then, a new zero-day virus could become widespread before antivirus companies released an update to protect against it.

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