Cyberwarfare Magazine

Warfare in the Information Age

First Internet Worm is 20 years old Sunday

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In 1988, the computer world faced a new cyber menace that is still very well alive today. The first computer worm, written by a student called Robert Tappan Morris.

From Wikipedia:

“The original intent, according to him, was to gauge the size of the Internet. He released the worm from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to conceal the fact that it actually originated from Cornell. The worm was designed to count how many machines were connected to the Internet. Unknown to Morris, the worm had a design flaw. The worm was programmed to check each computer it found to determine if the infection was already present. However, Morris believed that some administrators might try to defeat his worm by instructing the computer to report a false positive. To compensate for this possibility, Morris directed the worm to copy itself anyway, fourteen percent of the time, no matter the response to the infection-status interrogation.”

Infection Map of the Code Red Worm

Infection Map of the Code Red Worm

Nowadays, worms are notorious for spreading malicious payloads across the entire Internet. It also known as an extremely efficient cyber weapon to mass exploit vulnerabilities on a large scale. Popular worms include Code Red, in 2001, which infected up to 359 000 machines[1], Klez, Blaster, Sasser are also notorious computer worms. Here is a table of notorious worms from the last decade:

Worm

Year

Damage ($US)

CIH 1998 $20 to $80 million
Melissa 1999 $1 billion
ILoveYou 2000 $5.5 billion to $8.7 billion in damages; ten percent of all Internet-connected computers hit
Code Red 2001 $2 billion; a rate of $200 million in damages per day
SQL Slammer 2003 Shut down South Korea’s online capacity for 12 hours; affected 500,000 servers worldwide
Blaster 2003 between $2 and $10 billion; hundreds of thousands of infected PCs
Sobig 2003 500,000 computers worldwide; as much as $1 billion in lost productivity
Sasser 2004 tens of millions of dollars; shut down the satellite communications for some French news agencies; several Delta airline flights were cancelled; shut down numerous companies’ systems worldwide
MyDoom 2004 Slowed global Internet performance by 10 percent and Web load times by up to 50 percent
Bagle 2004 Tens of millions of dollars

Table 1.0 – Top 10 Computer Worms[2]

See also:

Morris worm turns 20: Look what it’s done“, Carolyn Duffy Marsan, Network World, October 30, 2008, http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/103008-morris-worm.html?page=1 (accessed October 31, 2008)

Morris Worm To Turn 20 – How Far Things Have Come“, Darknet, October 31, 2008, http://www.darknet.org.uk/2008/10/morris-worm-to-turn-20-how-far-things-have-come/ (accessed October 31, 2008)


[1] “The Spread of the Code-Red Worm (CRv2)”, David Moore, Colleen Shannon, CAIDA, September 14, 2007, http://www.caida.org/research/security/code-red/coderedv2_analysis.xml (accessed October 31, 2008)

[2] “Top 10 worst computer viruses”, George Garza, Catalogs.com, February 17, 2008, http://www.catalogs.com/info/travel-vacations/top-10-worst-computer-viruses.html (accessed October 31, 2008)

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Written by Jonathan Racicot

October 31, 2008 at 4:17 pm

One Response

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