The Worm That Started It All


Cybersecurity is a term we discuss broadly. It was discovered in 2019 that the average sophisticated cyberattack costs an organization $13million. With this extreme financial consequence, you can understand why we focus on cybersecurity education and prevention. We know the dangers of cyberattacks, although are you aware of what started the Cybersecurity Industry? This week we hit the thirty-second anniversary of the first sophisticated computer worm. How did this "research project" meant to determine the Internet's size end up taking down 10% of the Internet within 24 hours?


It was November 2, 1988, and Robert T. Morris had recently graduated from Harvard University and was currently attending Cornell University as a graduate student. Robert T. Morris created a self-replicating computer worm on ARPANET, the Internet's predecessor, and released this worm from a computer at MIT. Little did Morris or the world know what a change this worm would bring to the safety within the Internet. This worm, which was later named the Morris Internet Worm, was initially created to count the number of existing Internet connections. Unfortunately, it had a programming error that caused the worm to begin infecting and then reinfecting machines that clogged networks, caused systems to crash, and, in return, took down 10% of the Internet before a patch could be put in place 24 hours later.


The Morris Internet Worm was the first of its kind to spread comprehensively and expose extreme vulnerabilities. Because of this, the media attention that this worm received was unprecedented. Morris had no idea of the disaster he had caused as the Morris Internet worm successfully attacked about 6,000 of the 60,000 servers on the Internet in 1988. Even without trying to be malicious, Morris quickly infected these systems, slowing them down to a slither and causing most to crash under the burden. If Robert T. Morris hadn't done it, someone else would have, although Morris took the wrath of his creation. He was soon released from Cornell University, placed on three years' probation, and fined $10,000. Fortunately for Morris, MIT took note of his coding expertise through this disaster, and he eventually became a tenured professor.


Today the attacks are much more malicious. The cybercriminals understand the vulnerabilities and know there is money to be taken. The Morris Internet Worm not only opened up the world to exploit these newly found vulnerabilities, but he also taught us that we need to understand the threat. We must educate ourselves on these weaknesses to protect ourselves and our data. Contact our Pendello Solutions team today and let us help you develop the strongest front-line of defense.

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