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The Morris Worm Turns 30

November 09, 2018 / Kelly Jackson Higgins

How the historic Internet worm attack of 1988 has shaped security - or not. Michele Guel was sound asleep on Nov. 3, 1988, when the call came at 3:30 a.m.: An unknown virus had infiltrated NASA Ames Research Laboratory's Sun Microsystems file servers and workstations and was sapping their resources, slowing them to a crawl. She headed to the lab in the dead of the night and with her team at NASA scrambled to stop the attack. They manually powered down each machine, one by one. "We walked around and shut them down ... [and] unplugged the cables," Guel recalls. The attack was draining memory resources of NASA's computers and spreading fast among its Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) VAX, Silicon Graphics Unix, and Cray supercomputer machines as its targeted systems running the version 4 BSD Unix operating system.