Security – From Creeper to Reaper

The year was 1971. The New York Times began to publish sections of the Pentagon Papers, India and Pakistan became a warzone, and the first Space Station, Salyut 1, was launched into a low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union. That same year, Walt Disney World opened in Florida and Ping Pong Diplomacy attempted to build bridges between the US and China. Meanwhile, behind the doors of BBM Technologies, two men grappled with the problem of cyber security.  

Before we get into that, let’s go back one year to the first airing of a special episode of Scooby Doo entitled “Jeepers. It’s the Creeper.”  Scooby and the gang investigated the mysterious and violent bank robber known as the Creeper, who was known to have green skin and a hunchback and be able to walk through walls. The kids accept the help of the bank’s president, Mr. Carswell. After a series of escapades, the villain is unmasked. Spoiler alert—it was Mr. Carswell all along!  

And while we all love a good episode of Scooby Doo, what does this have to do with cyber security? During his time at BBM, computer engineer Bob Thomas created a virus to test the security measures of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the precursor to the internet used by the US Department of Defense.   

Guess what moniker Thomas chose for his creation? 

This virus, dubbed “The Creeper,” moved across the terminals of the ARPANET network, replicating itself inside open connections. The Creeper experiment demonstrated the potential of network-based computer attacks, where viruses could “jump” from one machine to another. It left a simple message in its wake: “I’M THE CREEPER, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.” The Creeper was the first self-replicating computer worm! 

In response to this test, Ray Tomlinson, another BBM computer engineer, created a program he called The Reaper. Similar to the Creeper, this program moved through the network, replicating itself. However, its goal was to find copies of the Creeper and log them out of the system so that the Creeper would be rendered impotent. The Reaper was the first attempt at cybersecurity, the first anivirus software program! 

Because of pioneers like Thomas and Tomlinson, today we have a plethora of antivirus programs available to help keep our systems running smoothly.  

Join us each week as we explore the history of the building control industry and the quality and innovation that characterizes American business and invention in our new blog series: “The Patents That Made Us: A History of American Innovation in Building Automation.” 

KMC Controls is an independent and family-owned manufacturer of turn-key solutions based in New Paris, Indiana. For the last fifty years, KMC Controls has remained dedicated to the American ideals of quality and innovation, focusing on intuitive solutions created by responsive and supportive people.  

To learn more  about KMC Controls, visit Join us for the next seven weeks as we learn more about these unsung heroes in “The Patents that Made Us: A History of American Innovation in Building Automation.” 


The Creeper Picture