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The Morris Worm

Robert Morris was the first person to be prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for releasing the first virus to spread widely on the Net.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2003 17:17 IST

Way back in November 1988, Robert Tappan Morris, a Cornell University graduate student, launched an Internet worm that spread like wildfire, infecting thousands of computers and causing servers to crash.

Morris, now a professor at MIT claimed that the worm that brought the Internet to its knees was a benign experiment that got out of control as the result of a coding error.

This was the first computer worm to spread widely on the Internet and it brought down much of the then nascent Internet for a day or two. "Morris" is considered the first worm virus and was certainly the first to gain significant mainstream media attention. The cost of the damage inflicted by the virus was estimated at between $10 million to $100 million.

At that time, the Internet was mostly the domain of academics, so the impact was not as severe as it would be now.

A federal grand jury indicted Morris on July 26, 1989 for releasing the worm. He thus became the first person to be prosecuted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The incident wound up in the history books as a watershed in Internet security.

First Published: Dec 06, 2003 00:00 IST