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How a grad student trying to build the first botnet brought the Internet to its knees
From: InfoSec News <alerts () infosecnews org>
Date: Tue, 5 Nov 2013 06:57:42 +0000 (UTC)


The Switch
Washington Post
November 1, 2014

On November 3, 1988, 25 years ago this Sunday, people woke up to find the Internet had changed forever. The night before, someone had released a malevolent computer program on the fledgling computer network. By morning, thousands of computers had become clogged with numerous copies of a computer "worm," a program that spread from computer to computer much like a biological infection.

It took days of effort by hundreds of systems administrators to clean up the mess, and the Internet community spent weeks analyzing what had happened and how to make sure it didn't happen again. A graduate student named Robert Morris was unmasked as the culprit behind the worm. A brilliant loner, he seemed to be motivated more by intellectual curiosity than malice. That didn't save him from becoming one of the first people prosecuted and convicted under an anti-hacking statute that Congress had passed a few years earlier.

But the most significant effect of the worm was how it permanently changed the culture of the Internet. Before Morris unleashed his worm, the Internet was like a small town where people thought little of leaving their doors unlocked. Internet security was seen as a mostly theoretical problem, and software vendors treated security flaws as a low priority.

The Morris Worm destroyed that complacency. It forced software vendors to take security flaws in their products seriously. It invigorated the field of computer security, creating a demand for such experts in both academia and industry. Today, the Internet is infested with malware that works a lot like the software Morris set out to build a quarter-century ago. And the community of Internet security professionals who fight these infections can trace the roots of their profession back to the events of November 1988.


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