Robert T Morris, Jr. was a graduate student in Computer Science at Cornell.
On November the 22nd, 1988 he wrote an experimental piece of code which could both reproduce and spread itself across the emerging new world wide web.
What he had created would later become known as a worm.
Soon after releasing his worm Morris found that it was spreading far quicker than he had ever anticipated.
The machines that became infected with this ‘Morris worm’ would lock up or completely crash.
He tried to make amends by sending an anonymous message from Harvard that contained instructions on how to disable the worm but by that time networks were so clogged up that most recipients never received it.
A huge range of computer systems and networks became infected, ranging from medical facilities to military installations.
The cost to remove the Morris worm was quite severe in some instances, rising into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Eventually researchers managed to reverse engineer the worm and after a few days the worm’s affects were largely neutralised.
Everyone wanted to know who was responsible, however, and the The New York Times took a growing body of evidence and pointed the finger at Morris.
Morris was later convicted of violating the computer Fraud and Abuse Act (Title 18) for which he received a sentence of three years probation in addition to four hundred hours of community service and a fine of $10,050.
At the end of 1990 Morris appealed his sentence but it was upheld in March of the following year.
Read more : Malware That Changed The World