a brief history of worms

my last post about DTI’s website being hacked prompted me to do some research on internet viruses and worms.

according to snowplow.org, the term “worm” originated from a science fiction story called “The Shockwave Rider” written by John Brunner in 1975. the story is about a totalitarian government that controls its citizens through a powerful computer network. a freedom fighter infests this network with a program called a “tapeworm” forcing the government to shut down the network, thereby destroy its base of power.
although worms now are considered malicious, however did you know that worm programs were actually originally designed to facilitate better usage of a network?

in 1971 Bob Thomas developed a program that help notifies air traffic controllers about plane movements called “creeper.” the “creeper” travels from screen to screen in a network displaying the message, “i’m creeper! catch me if you can!”

in the early 1980’s, John Shock and Jon Hepps of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center developed 5 worms, each of which were designed to perform helpful tasks around the network. one that stands out was the “vampire” worm which remains idle during the day, but @ night did complex tasks. kewl di ba?

well, as the movie says – “with great powers come great responsibilities.” good things when misused becomes harmful as well.

on november 2, 1988, Robert Morris, Jr., a graduate student in Computer Science @ Cornell, wrote an experimental, self-replicating, self-propagating program and injected it into the internet. Morris released it @ MIT and soon spread around the country crashing machines and putting them in ‘catatonic’ state – as usual it had a bug!

he along with a friend tried to anonymously remedy the situation but was too late. a team of programmers worked non-stop to contain the situation.

Morris later was convicted of violating the computer Fraud and Abuse Act and was sentenced to three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, a fine of $10,050, and the costs of his supervision.

in the recent years the worm have mutated in several ways. and of course, IT PINOYs didn’t want to be left behind, do you still remember the “ILOVEYOU” virus which spread throughout the globe in just one day? well that’s another blog-worthy story..

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