30th Anniversary Of The Morris Worm: Are Businesses Taking Cybersecurity Seriously?

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Friday November 2 2018 marks 30 years since the release of the Morris worm. One of the first computer worms distributed via the internet, the Morris worm was also significant because it led to the first US conviction by jury trial under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Creator Robert Tappan Morris’s programme infected around 10% of the approximately 60,000 computers online at the time, including those at universities and government agencies, causing machines to crash and disruption to internet connectivity for several days. Estimated repairs cost between $200-$53,000 per location.

Alex Hinchliffe, Threat Intelligence Analyst at Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks:

“It was not until the 1988 Morris worm bringing the Internet to its knees that we all began to understand what a malicious application of a worm might accomplish. It was an important wake-up call on the importance of cybersecurity.

“Worryingly though, 30 years on, similar attacks are still occurring – WannaCry and Mirai being two major examples. However, there are still organisations relying on the same basic protections as the victims of the Morris worm; notably, weak passwords.

“Organisations continue to get pummelled by cyber attacks, and the advent of cloud computing, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Internet of Things devices means organisations are more exposed than ever before.

“Relying on passwords as the only line of defence puts organisation at risk for identify theft and/or a significant security breach, especially when individuals use the same, or similar, passwords for more than one site. It’s crucial that two-factor or multi-factor authentication become standard practice at your companies.

“It’s also worth noting that the spread of the Morris worm was halted the day after it was first spotted due to software patching, which mitigated against the vulnerabilities harnessed by the malware to gain control. It is a must for organisations to regularly patch and have systems in place to identify when a vendor has released a new patch.”

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