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How One Hacker's Mistake Fashioned the Internet You Use Today


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If the worm wasn't intended to damage or steal anything, what was Morris' motivation? Some in the community have speculated it was intended to bring attention to security flaws. Spafford disagrees.

"I don't see that there's evidence for that. The flaws that were there, he could've pointed out in other ways," he says.

"I've never really bought into the idea that you've gotta burn a building down to show it's flammable."

According to Rasch, the Department of Justice at the time had no higher agreed-upon motive than "because it could be done."

"It was driven in part by curiosity and possibly a certain amount of hubris," says Spaf, who admits the motive can never be certain. "He's remained quiet on all of this for the last 25 years — which I think is much to his credit, by the way. He's appeared to be contrite, moved on with his life and actually done some very good things in his career."

Morris ultimately came forward and admitted to creating the worm. His trial marked the first federal computer crime case.

Morris Worm Code

The Morris worm case led to the creation of CERT and fundamentally changed the way Internet users viewed security. In a time when the general public was largely unaware of the Internet, his crime brought it to the forefront of the national debate. Not many condone his actions, but there's no denying the impact Morris has had on online evolution.

"He's not an evil genius because he's neither evil or a genius," says Rasch. "He's just a very smart guy who wrote a program that did pretty much what he wanted it to do — except for that one mistake."