The Morris Worm

By abeard

There may be a virus loose on the internet.
Andy Suddath said that in 1988 when the Morris Worm was released into the Internet. It's intent was harmless enough, it was designed to find out the size of the Internet. If it had worked properly, there would not have been a problem. Unfortunately, it did not work perfectly, and infected what was estimated to be a full ten percent of the Internet.

One copy of the morris worm was practically invisible. It was a very small program, under a hundred lines, and consumed very little resources. The problem is it infected the computers more than once, it infected them thousands of times. Some computers, after as little as an hour and a half, had so many copies running that they could not run any processes at all, a death from a thousand cuts.

The tiny little bug that caused the devastation probably didn't seem too bad when the code was written.
Robert Tappan Morris the creator of the worm, did not want to infect computers that had already been infected. But it would have been too easy for computer security to simply say yes when asked if they had the worm, even if they didn't have the worm, and thus defeating the purpose of the worm. So it was designed that every seventh time the worm received a yes, it would replicate itself. Unfourtunatly, it takes practically no time at all for a computer to ask a yes or no question seven times, so it's reproduction was not slowed at all

The Morris worm, and worms in general, are very similar to viruses, however a few differences to exist. The main one is that while a virus is attached to a executable file, and only activates when the file is opened, a worm needs absolutely no user interaction. It gets in to the system through holes in the computer's security, and replicates by itself.

The worm caused a great deal of panic, as well as mistrust in the Internet, and up to a 100 million dollars in damages to boot. It did however, teach a lot of lessons about computer security. One lesson is the devastation that small bugs can cause. The whole problem with the morris worm was a problem in choosing which computers to infect. Another lesson learned is caution among users. Almost everyone now knows that a few misclicks can get you a virus, causing all sorts of problems. There are a lot of viruses and worms and Trojan horses that are worse than the morris worm, in respects to what it does to your computer.

It's creator got into a whole lot of trouble for making the worm. The government estimated the damage of the Morris worm to be anywhere from $10,000,000 to $100,000,000. Robert was the first person convicted under the computer fraud abuse act, and was fined for $10,000, three years of probation, and 400 hours of community service. He tried to make an appeal in 1990, but it was rejected

sources: wikipedia, and snowplow.org.

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