IKARUS Security Software: Pioneering Work since 1986
Two Main Pillars for IKARUS
IKARUS started out resting on two main pillars. The first one was developing custom software for SMB. (In fact, we used to do this then but it was far from being profitable.) We used PCs running MS-DOS 2.11 for programming in compiled BASIC and COBOL. The other area we were involved in was standard products. Our range included a design tool for COBOL programmers that was recommended by Microsoft. For a while, Microsoft had been thinking about buying our solution but then they dissolved their own COBOL team and acquired a COBOL compiler. Unfortunately, a similar tool already existed for that compiler. What a pity!
Time is Money
Another product was to be our breakthrough: Time Is Money (TIM) was a calendaring software that remained active in the background at all times (we used to call that a “resident” application). It was capable of reading and displaying all events of an entire week within less than a second—even when loading them from floppy disk.
TIM consisted of more than 30,000 lines of Macro Assembler code. It ran smoothly and was lightning fast—something one could not say about our distributors in Europe and North America: Both of them found themselves in financial difficulties, causing us an almost seven-digit loss in license fees. That was a very difficult situation for us—after all, TIM was selling pretty well. Then one day in autumn 1987, a TIM user sent us his floppy disk. He wrote that something on it got broken…
The First Computer Virus
At close inspection, we found that it contained a computer virus. That was new to us—something we had never seen in the wild before. By pure chance, however, we were not unprepared—quite the contrary: In 1984, Joachim Schneider and me had written a response to an article published in Scientific American that described two programs “fighting” each other in a software environment. We discussed international competitions—we called them “core wars”— and presented a programming language. The programs’ major survival strategy was to replicate themselves in the same way computer viruses would later do. In our spare time, we developed core-war software allowing for programming and compiling fighting programs, which would then compete with each other. Thus, we became European Coordinators of the International Core Wars Society. (I still own the letter of appointment.) Thanks to the core wars, we knew about the basic concepts when we analyzed that first computer virus back in 1987. This allowed us to quickly remove the virus from the user’s disk. Then, one night, I had an idea...
What if we used those skills to develop a software package that allowed users checking their floppy disks for viruses, removing found viruses, and protecting them against reinfection by (still) unknown viruses? I wrote a draft describing the three tasks in more detail and gave the package a name: Virus Utilities (now: IKARUS anti.virus). We completed the first beta in June 1988, and the solution went on sale in autumn 1988. The rest is history...
Joe Pichlmayr took over the management 1997. As executive partner he expanded the development-team step by step with IT-security-experts. Along UNIX- and Microsoft-experts employees were recruited from universities and research institutes. Due to the large number of cooperations and special agreements with IT security experts, IKARUS has the ability to provide up-to-the-minute information and answers to questions of all areas of security software.