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Morris Worm Turning 20 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the malware-what-is-that dept.
netbuzz writes "The Internet will mark an infamous anniversary Sunday, when the Morris worm turns 20. Considered the first major attack on the 'Net, Morris served as a wake-up call about the risk of software bugs, and it set the stage for network security to become an important area of computer science. It was also the first time many non-techies heard of the 'Net, as the mainstream media covered the story extensively." Reader maximus1 contributes a brief ITWorld story about Robert Morris himself.
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Morris Worm Turning 20

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  • terrorist! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Friday October 31, 2008 @02:46PM (#25587373)
    Robert Tappan Morris, the 21-year-old Cornell University student who unleashed the first worm attack on the Internet in 1988, has fully rehabilitated his reputation in the computer science community. Today, he is a respected associate professor of computer science at MIT.

    Sounds like a terrorist to me. And anyone who's ever taken one of his classes or worked with him is guilty of palling around with terrorists.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      You mean he has explicitly said he doesn't regret it and that he wishes he had done more damage?
      • by osu-neko (2604)

        You mean he has explicitly said he doesn't regret it and that he wishes he had done more damage?

        Does it matter, assuming we're talking about people who've worked with him or taken classes from him?

        I have a good friend who happens to be conservative. I happen to be liberal. He pals around with me anyway. He agrees that anyone who tried to judge his opinions or beliefs based on anything I've said or done would be a complete and utter moron, even though it's quite true that he willingly pals around with me, even considers me a close friend.

        You gotta wonder about the intelligence of someone who would t

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      you mean he pals around with _theorists_?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Theorists? Terrorists?

        Same thing really. Just lookie at some of them theories, them cotton pickin' high falutin' theorists came up with! I mean the Earth not being 6000 year old like the Bible says it must be and all that evolube...shion thing! Next thing them be trying to say that the Sun does not go round the Earth as the Lord intended! I say get them all commie theorizing terrorists in the Gitmo where they belong!

    • You know, Obama did pal around with Morris when he was 8. McCain was going to bring this up, but he was worried that Obama would bring up the fact that McCain was boyhood friends with John Wilkes Booth.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like a terrorist to me. And anyone who's ever taken one of his classes or worked with him is guilty of palling around with terrorists.

      I have to say it, this is apalling!

    • by bboxman (1342573)

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending bits to a computer. That the computer doesn't behave as expected as a result isn't the fault of the sender; it is the fault of the programming staff responsible for the fault.

      The authors of Sendmail (and IIRC, emacs and one other program) are guilty of negligiance. Perhaps free software should be allowed a disclaimer out. But M$, Google, Apple, and their ilk should not. Instead of going after people who just "spoke" to the systems, society should pursu

  • Wow... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Facegarden (967477) on Friday October 31, 2008 @03:09PM (#25587681)

    I would LOVE to see some of that old news footage!
    -Taylor

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by altek (119814) on Friday October 31, 2008 @03:44PM (#25588149) Homepage

      I was only 8 years old at the time. But I remember it well, because I was already very into computers (programming in BASIC on an Apple IIe, and my friend's C64).

      Anyway, I remember it being on the news every day, and they were using all kinds of scary "Computer virus" graphics, and talking about virus this and that. I don't recall the word "worm" being used.

      But the thing I remember most about the coverage was some of the journalists warning that it is still unknown whether or not computer viruses can be transferred to humans! I'm not kidding, they actually were trying to spread fear that people could catch this virus too. I don't know if this was intentional, or due to sheer ignorance. And they were also saying it could be transferred between PC's over the air (and I'm not confusing this with sneakernet)...

      So yea, I wish I could see some of that old footage too :)

      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Facegarden (967477) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:05PM (#25588423)

        Found something:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2i_6j55bS0 [youtube.com]
        Its so silly now it almost seems like a joke. Luckily the people from MIT actually do seem reasonable, but the newscasters and their production team are just crazy.
        Man, i can't believe 1988 was 20 years ago... I was 4.
        -Taylor

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          Man, i can't believe 1988 was 20 years ago... I was 4.

          The Plague: The year was 1988. And this nasty virus crashed fifteen hundred systems in one day.
          Zero Cool: Fifteen hundred and seven.

        • Wait a second...so according to that news report Morris forced everyone to play E.T.? That is insidious!
        • That's an awesome and terribly funny news clip. 20 years ago I was 14. I never realized how silly college students looked back then.

      • I think I was 15 at the time. as a computer geek then, it completely fascinated me. Our high school had a vax -- and I believe they unplugged the thing, even though AFAIK it wasn't connected to the internet (er arpanet at the time, I guess).

  • Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    These renowned security hackers (Allman, Spafford, Bellovin, etc) speak of leniency for rtm, which I have no problem with. But rarely mentioned is the fact that they all knew of (or knew personally or worked with) rtm's dad, [wikipedia.org] who was a crypto hacker himself, so they all weren't entirely unbiased about the incident.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by idontgno (624372)

      rtm's dad, who was a crypto hacker himself, so they all weren't entirely unbiased about the incident.

      I've often wondered about that myself, both before I became a father (and therefore put myself into rtm's place) and after (when I put myself into Morris Sr.'s place).

      The scenario pretty much involved Sr. saying "My kid did what?!

  • by gsgriffin (1195771) on Friday October 31, 2008 @03:47PM (#25588191)
    How can a worm on the "net" be 20 years old? Gore wasn't in office yet!
    • by budcub (92165)

      He was Senator Al Gore Jr. at the time.

    • Nice joke, but, in fact, he was. In 1988 he was in his third year as a freshman Senator, having already served eight years in the House.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by osu-neko (2604)
        Yes, and it was during his congressional career that he and a number of other congressmen did take the initiative in drafting and passing legislation that would move the Internet from an military and academic network into something we could all use, in effect, creating the public Internet as we know it today. He never claimed to have invented the Internet, he did claim to have taken the initiative, and a bit of fact-checking proves what he said was indeed true.
  • Sources say the notorious Morris the Worm come from a hairball coughed up by Morris the Cat. If only he wasn't so finicky.

    (ducks) Hey I tried.
  • RMJCC FTW! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • by ttigue (1305311)
    Wait, you're ZeroCool!!!!!
  • by Snowblindeye (1085701) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:02PM (#25588383)

    ... served as a wake-up call about the risk of software bugs, and it set the stage for network security...

    Calling it a wake-up call would imply that people actually woke up and fixed things afterwards.

    I don't think that happened. ActiveX was invented after the Morris worm. People wrote email programs that interpreted VBScript in the mail and executed it after the Morris worm.

    Remember the goodtimes virus hoax? It was a joke that a virus could propagate via email. It was funny, because viruses *couldn't* propagate via email. Then people implemented that feature in mail programs, opening the door to a rapid rise in email viruses. All, *after* the Morris worm.

    So give me a break, but I don't think anybody woke up that time. Or later, for that matter. I don't think the mainstream is taking network security seriously to this day.

    • Indeed.

      Writing sloppy code is cheaper and raises profits for software developers, from the OS on down.

      Exploiting that sloppy code helps kids stay off the streets.

      Writing anti-virus software and operating network security companies need the kids to write the viruses that exploit the sloppy code which increased profits for the initial developers.

      It's kind of like the circle of life, and everybody wins!

      • by namco (685026)

        It's kind of like the circle of life, and everybody wins!

        Not until I write an EltonJohn worm that sings Circle of Life...no wait, an even better idea for a singing worm:

        RickAstley!

    • ... served as a wake-up call about the risk of software bugs, and it set the stage for network security...

      Calling it a wake-up call would imply that people actually woke up and fixed things afterwards.

      I will often go back to sleep after my alarm clock goes off.

    • by jgrahn (181062)

      ... served as a wake-up call about the risk of software bugs, and it set the stage for network security...

      Calling it a wake-up call would imply that people actually woke up and fixed things afterwards.

      I don't think that happened. ActiveX was invented after the Morris worm. People wrote email programs that interpreted VBScript in the mail and executed it after the Morris worm. [...]So give me a break, but I don't think anybody woke up that time.[...]

      Do you think Microsoft cared what happened on the Interne

  • RTM (Score:1, Interesting)

    by interval1066 (668936)
    For an excellent verbal picture of Morris, his exploits, and the net as a whole in that era read Steven Levy's "Hackers." Having lived in Redwood City, Ca, one block from the El Camino Real, having accessed MIT's CS facility and seen the "lusers" login message for myself, and even tried the famous choc. chip cookie recipe, and having as a close friend an ex-employee of the old Sierra On-Line Games, all mentioned in the book, it was just a delightful read. It was fun to connect up the missing dots in my inc
  • by Arrogant-Bastard (141720) on Friday October 31, 2008 @04:22PM (#25588659)
    And having read "The Shockwave Rider", had some idea of what we were up against. My role that day is described elsewhere and is of little importance, however. What IS important is that it provided a wake-up call that was badly needed, and that it taught us one of our early lessons in reactive self-defense, full disclosure, and cooperation. We're still learning.
  • i thought about the Doors, for some reason...

  • I remember coming into the office and everyone was standing around looking glum. Finally someone suggested we have a cup of tea. What do do? There was no Usenet coming down the pipe, how would we get through the day without reading news? It was horrible. Little did we know we'd be offline for 3 days and it wouldn't be until the next week that service would get back to normal. We actually had to go and do some work!

    Gawd, makes me feel really old. How is ol' RTM?

  • So if you may have heard "a worm that turned", it is a saying that means a worm is defending itself. [phrases.org.uk] Who ever thought words taken out of context have simple meanings?

  • It was Wednesday. That afternoon we learned there was a "worm" loose on the network. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) had slammed closed the gateways between the unclassified operational MILNET and the original R&D ARPANet. Unfortunately DISA did two things wrong: 1) they were too late, and 2) they cut the DoD off from critical civilian information sources needed to mitigate and stop the worm.

    For two days the Air Force struggled to identify all of its UNIX systems on the MILNET. We didn't h

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