Internet the Great Worm Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2580 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Education - Computers  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Just like today when the majority of machines use Windows, at that time a huge number of machines met these specifications and carried the programs that were susceptible." [cue line 2] "The worm transmitted itself through the Sendmail service, which is notoriously buggy, and accepted the worms request to use it. Many administrators' first line of defense was to shut down their mail programs, however the worm had other ways of spreading as well and shutting down mail only prevented operators from hearing about the antidote when it was discovered." [cue line 3] "Finger is a program related to a webpage or blog, which allowed people to share information about themselves. It had a bug where anything overly complex was automatically accepted rather than being checked. This included fingering a worm." [cue line 4] "Finally, the worm broke into RSH, which allowed it to access second healthy machines if one had the same level access to both computers. The worm ran through thousands of passwords on an infected computer and, upon gaining access, would use that to enter new computers. The worm used a copy of the dictionary, among other tactics. Bad password choice, then as now, made systems weaker."

SLIDE #8 -- Large text across the top reads: AFTER THE WORMS WERE OUT OF THE COMPUTER... The image on the left shows a bunch of worms laying on a keyboard. ( .

Text: #1 -- 6,000 machines estimated to be infected with $10-100 million in labor to resecure them.

#2 -- Morris was the first hacker convicted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

#3 -- Reduced sentence because "the total dollar lost overstates the seriousness of the offense" (U.S. v. Robert Tappan Morris. Case Number 89-CR-139)

#4 -- In the end, the computer community benefitted by an increased awareness of security.

Script: Eventually, of course, the worm was defeated. Computer programmers and academics isolated the worm, deconstructed it, and figured out how to stop the bugs it was using and secude computers against it." [cue #1] "The prosecuters claimed that the worm infected about 6,000 computers and the cost in man-hours to clean and secure the computers was between ten and a hundred million dollars. Some claim that these numbers were a little off base. Accordin to Programmer Paul Graham: "I was there when [this statistic] was cooked up, and this was the recipe: someone guessed that there were about 60,000 computers attached to the Internet, and that the worm might have infected ten percent of them." [quoted in the Wikipedia article] Morris program itself failed to count the number of infected computers, because reinfection skewed the count. The dollar cost was based not on actual damage but on the cost of hiring people to remove the worm and to change the code so it couldn't reinfect. Nonetheless..." [cue #2] " Morris was convicted for violating the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which could have meant serious jail time. Luckily for him, the judge was very lenient." [ Cue #3] "The judge in this case said that: "the total dollar lost overstates the seriousness of the offense..." And sentenced him to years of probation, public service, and a hefty fine. This was particularly fair considering that the worm's only damage was a side effect of its reproduction." [cue #4] "The worm could have destroyed data, stolen and transmitted password, or even burnt out computers. Later worms and viruses have attempted to do all of these things and often succeeded. Morris' worm was relatively harmless, even if temporarily disabling, and its existence pointed out the serious security flaws in the internet and the possibility of future attacks. In the end, the computer community benefitted by an increased awareness of security, because if it wasn't for him we might not have been prepared for future malevolent worms.

Slide #9 -- An image of a worm in the center of a recycle symbol. ( Play music to Total Eclipse of the Heart, fading into the first verse ("Turnaround, Every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears Turnaround, Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by") Text Title: THE WORM RETURNS. Subtitle: Every Now & Then We Fall Apart...

Text: Techie: Have you been hit by the SirCam worm?

Interviewer: [tells how easy it was for this nasty bit of code to enter enterprise systems and continue it's bastardly assault across systems.]

Techie: Right. Back in 1988 we had the Morris worm caused by a buffer overflow, which was a pretty new thing, a really cool way to penetrate systems.

Interviewer: And buffer overflows are still a problem.

Techie: Right! Thirteen years later, they still do buffer overflows. It's crazy. We've learned nothing.

-- Ron DuFresne, 2001

Script: Some things have changed since 1988. Now we have HTML and even Flash, which fills the internet with color and interactivity and even sound. Today anyone can go online at speeds hardly imagined twenty years ago. Yet some things remain depressingly the same. Despite the warnings given by the great worm, many of the basic flaws it exploited are still common. The majority of computers still run the same programs, making them susceptible to infection. Mail programs are still weak and prone to exploitation. Passwords are still frequently kept in unsafe locations and are made so easy to remember that they are easy to crack. Computers are still prone to overload from worms and viruses. The really big worm hasn't come yet -- the one that will be both powerful and intent on destroying everything in its path. When it does, however, unless we start paying attention to the lessons of past worms we will never be able to stop it in time.


Darby, Tom & Schmidt, Charles. "The What, Why, and How of the 1988 Internet Worm."

DuFresno, Ron. "The Morris worm to Nimda how little we've learned or gained." Firewall Wizards.

Rotten. "Robert T. Morris"

U.S. v. Robert Tappan Morris. Case Number 89-CR-13. Archived at:

Wikipedia. "Morris Worm" [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Internet the Great Worm.  (2005, June 12).  Retrieved February 20, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Internet the Great Worm."  12 June 2005.  Web.  20 February 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Internet the Great Worm."  June 12, 2005.  Accessed February 20, 2019.