Information operations · Cybersecurity · cyberwar · Information Warfare

The Morris Worm: Worms, Viruses, and Other Programmed Pests


Today, Eugene Spafford circulated an invitation to view a video he recently uploaded to the internet. Eugene Spafford is a legend in the cyber world.

This video was released about six weeks after the Morris Worm was released by Robert Morris on November 2nd, 1988. It is a classic example of unintended consequences in the cyber world and shows how restraint must be exercised in all coding. You folks thinking that making offensive cyber tools is easy have no idea.  This puts the video into context.  There is so much more to this story, the short term and long term repercussions are off the chart.

Video at the bottom.

Here is what he wrote on his blog:

A Blast from the Past

At the time, I was a new assistant professor — I had joined the faculty at Purdue in August of 1987. This was only my second ever presentation on computing security issues, although I had been working in the area for years. Note, that this was well before I had coauthored either the Computer Virus book or Practical Unix Security.

The title of the talk was Worms, Viruses, and Other Programmed Pests. I went on to give a variant of this presentation about 2 dozen times in the year following this talk.

I had forgotten that I had a copy of this video stored away. I’m sharing it now for historical purposes (and for some of my friends, hysterical purposes).

I think that this talk has aged very well, considering it was given nearly 30 years ago. Most of what I talk about here (but not all) is still relevant. Clearly, a number of the examples and numbers have changed drastically since then, but some of the most significant aspects have remained unchanged. Much of the advice I gave then could be given today because it still applies….and still is largely ignored. Especially, check out the Q&A at the end.

You can tell this video is really old, not only because of the video artifacts, but because:

  1. I am wearing a normal tie (I switched to bow ties exclusively about 1989)
  2. I am making the presentation using acetates instead of from a computer
  3. I have almost a full head of hair
  4. I only had a waistline in double digits.

You’ll also note that I had the odd sense of humor even then. Oh, and I used the Oxford comma in the title.

Enjoy.

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2 thoughts on “The Morris Worm: Worms, Viruses, and Other Programmed Pests

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