You’d think the world was coming to an end judging by this 1988 news report about the first computer ‘virus’ to spread via the Internet. This particular virus, known as the Morris worm, was written by Cornell student Robert Morris and distributed on this very day – November 2 – 25 years ago.
“It came from California. Maybe. Traveled by electronic mail. It spread across America,” the news report said. “It arrived at MIT in the middle of the night. The students were safe. Their computers weren’t.” All jokes aside in hindsight, the worm was a significant milestone in computer security at the time although it never meant to cause any harm.
Morris designed the worm to gauge the size of the Internet but a crucial error in the code transformed the otherwise harmless program into a self-replicating nightmare. It is believed the worm infected some 6,000 machines, or roughly 10 percent of all computers connected to the Internet at the time, and resulted in the first conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.