Outliving the Worm

By Joseph C. Panettieri  |  Posted 2001-03-12

Unlike many people convicted of computer crimes, Robert T. Morris shies away from the spotlight and has moved on to become a leading researcher at MITs Lab for Computer Sciences.

The soft-spoken Morris has been around computers his entire life. His father was the chief scientist at the National Computer Security Center. As a teenager, Morris had an account on Bell Labs computer network. He went on to study at Cornell University and Harvard University, before moving on to his current position at MIT.

Sources at MIT call Morris a "brilliant" computer scientist. In recent years, he has written research papers on TCP congestion control, ATM switching and wireless networks, among other deeply technical subjects.

"I think he works so hard now because he doesnt want to be remembered for a mistake he made in his youth," says a source at MIT, who requested anonymity.

To be sure, writing and releasing the worm was an epic mistake. Several Web sites have chronicled how the worm spread like wildfire across the Net. The most complete accounts come from Donn Seely (see http://world.std.com/~franl/worm.html), and Mark W. Eichin and Jon A. Rochlis (see http://web.mit.edu/eichin/www/virus/main.html).

Morris received three years of probation, 400 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine for the 1988 worm incident.

Morris politely declined comment for this article.

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