Malware That Changed The World – The Robert Morris Worm

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.

Robert-Morris-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

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. Perhaps Apple could come up with a solution that would render a PC immune to malware? 😀

  2. You are right, I don’t think an incumbent player would provide it. I think a start-up would; with the intention of providing a one-off solution to just about every PC user in the world.

    I don’t think, however, such a solution can actually exist.

    Particularly, as you say, social media platforms are the new “playground” of malware propagators.

    I guess that means you get to blog for years to come, and anti-malware vendors get to carry on making money. Alas, that also means malware writers will keep getting to steal our data, id’s and credit card details :(

    Best,

    Justin.

  3. I think we both know full well that no company would ever bring a solution to market that would jeopardise their future profits.

    Even if a CEO took the moral high ground there would be plenty of shareholders who would ensure it never happened.

    Besides, if an end was put to malware those behind it would go elsewhere anyway… social networking sites are their new playground now and they’d probably just switch over to socially engineered phishing scams instead imho.

  4. Doubly excellent post.

    Most people forget (and probably rightly so) that much early malware was created as “a bit of a joke” or for learning purposes. Had it remained that way, there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry to try to stop malware AND we’d probably have thousands more very smart programmers working on other world-problems… alas, times have changed. It’s all for profit (on both sides now.)

    I guess the age of innocence has passed by.

    Do you remember the time when to be called a hacker was actually a good thing?

    Best,

    Justin.

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