November 2, 1988 is an important day for the Internet. On that day a graduate of Cornell University in the United States, Robert Morris Jr., executed a worm type program, the first program that has affected in a very serious Internet. In seconds, thousands of computers across the United States have been out of service by the unusual program. Hundreds of networks of research institutes, universities, and of the few companies that were connected to the Internet at that time were affected.
Within a few hours was formed a volunteer group to resolve this situation as quickly as possible. Members of the group called “Virus Net” communicate with their phone and the non-affected segments of the network. After a failed effort to identify cause of the problem, they isolate the virus and find a weakness in the code. This discovery made the spread of the virus to be stopped in a record time of 24 hours after onset.
The way the program called worm as it propagates through the network and infected so many computers, is very simple. After infecting a computer, the program create two copies of itself in memory, whose purpose was to look for other computers that may be infected. The two copies are created every turn two copies of the virus. A simple calculation shows that for the 16th “generation” of computers there were more than 65.000 copies of the program on the infected system, and other 65.000 for other computers investigated to see if they were infected.
Because the program was not stopping, he arrived in a very short time to consume computer resources, that was no longer able to respond to legitimate commands of users. Although the problem can be solved by a simple reboot of the computer, it was very likely that he will very soon be reinfected by other systems that were running copies of the virus.
Although it was not catastrophic, the Internet was made up of very few computers at the time (a few tens of thousands, to hundreds of millions that are now), so this incident has put a serious warning regarding security systems in general and networks in particular.
Morris virus has revealed the vulnerability of the Internet and made it aware of the need to secure it, having the same effect on the computer world as the effect of the first hijacking a passenger plane in 1960, within the world of aviation.