Technology

“We are under attack”: 34 years since the ‘Morris worm’, the first malware in history

It was 8:30 a.m. at the University of California, Berkeley, when the first malware was detected on the Internet. Notably, it was on 2 November 1988, and it spread through Around 60,000. out of about 6,000 computers He was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

34 years later, we still remember the germ that would unleash more malware designed to carry out cyber attacks. The name they gave it was ‘Morris Worm’ and Berkeley wasn’t the only victim, it also affected Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, NASA and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.



“in present, we are under attack“, were words that a Berkeley student wrote in an email the same day. The virus spreads on its own, without the need for a software host and only through a specific version of the Unix operating system, but it has spread to thousands of people. affected computers.

The Morris worm did not destroy any of the files, but it slowed down the academic center’s operations for several days. Many institutions came to erase their systems or disconnected them until a solution was found. Despite their efforts to stop the spread of the worm, it has been estimated that The damage started at $100,000 and ended in the millions.

Who was the culprit?

the person responsible for the attack was A Programmer Who Admitted to Launching a Worm To two friends at MIT. According to him, it got out of hand and he asked one of his friends to send an anonymous message with an apology and an explanation on how to remove the fraudulent program.

However, the systems were so damaged that many people did not receive the message. The second friend was someone who anonymously called The New York Times, saying it was a harmless experiment and that its spread was a programming error.


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In the phone call, the friend recalled the event’s author’s initials, and this allowed journalists to find the culprit: Robert Tappan Morris, a computer scientist who graduated from Harvard in 1988 Joe was at Cornell University at the age of 23.

Robert Tappan Morris, a computer scientist, was the developer of the worm.
Robert Tappan Morris, a computer scientist, was the developer of the worm.
Mark Emile Moretto via Flickr

From his terminal at Cornell, he created a program that was able to slowly and covertly spread over the Internet (then ARPANET). their use has been proven Hacking an MIT computer remotelyBut the matter got out of control.

Morris broke the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act passed in 1986, which Restrict unauthorized access to protected computers, He was prosecuted for this and found guilty in 1990: he had to pay a $10,050 fine, was on probation for three years and did 400 hours of community service.

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