ROBERT TAPPAN MORRIS :

Written By Akshay Prabhale on Friday, April 11, 2008 | 4:51 AM


Robert Tappan Morris (also known as rtm, born 1965 (age 42-43)) is an associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the Institute's department of Electical Engineering and Computer Science. He is best known for creating the Morris Worm in 1988, considered the first computer worm on the Internet. He is the son of Robert Morris, the former chief scientist at the National Computer Security Center, a division of the National Security Agency (NSA)..

Robert Tappan Morris




The worm :

Morris created the worm while he was a graduate student at Cornell University. The original intent, according to him, was to gauge the size of the Internet.

He released the worm from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to conceal the fact that it actually originated from Cornell. Unknown to Morris, the worm had a design flaw. The worm was programmed to check each computer it found to determine if the infection was already present.

However, Morris believed that some administrators might try to defeat his worm by instructing the computer to report a false positive. To compensate for this possibility, Morris directed the worm to copy itself anyway, fourteen percent of the time, no matter the response to the infection-status interrogation.

This level of replication proved excessive and the worm spread rapidly, infecting several thousand computers. It was estimated that the cost of repair for the damage caused by the worm at each system ranged from $200 to more than $53,000.

The worm exploited several vulnerabilities to gain entry to targeted systems, including:
a hole in the debug mode of the Unix sendmail program,
a buffer overrun hole in the fingerd network service,
the transitive trust enabled by people setting up rexec/rsh network logins without password requirements...

Biography :

1987 - Received his A.B. from Harvard.

1988 - Released the Morris worm (when he was a graduate student at Cornell).

1989 - Indicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 on July 26, 1989 - the first person to be indicted under this Act.

1990 - Convicted and sentenced to three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, a fine of $10,050 and the cost of his supervision.

1995 - Founded Viaweb, a start-up company that made software for building online stores - with Paul Graham.

1998 - Viaweb sold to Yahoo, who renamed it software Yahoo! Store.

1999 - Received Ph.D. in Applied Sciences from Harvard.

1999 - Appointed as a professor at MIT.

2005 - Founded Y Combinator, a venture capital firm - with Paul Graham.

2006 - Awarded tenure.

2006 - Technical advisor for Meraki Networks.

His principal research interest is computer network architectures which includes work on distributed hash tables such as Chord and wireless mesh networks such as Roofnet.


Morris is a longtime friend of Paul Graham (Graham dedicated his book ANSI Common Lisp to him) and Graham named the programming language that generates the online stores' web pages RTML in his honor.



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