Computer Worms: Past, Present, and Future

Contributed by Craig Fosnock

Internet computer worms have gone from a hypothetical theorem to very real and very dangerous threat to computer networks. They are even capable of affecting the biggest network of our time, the Internet. Starting from humble and beneficial beginnings computer worms are now the plague of the Internet and can cause billions of dollars worth of damages in just a few hours, if not minutes. In this paper I will discuss the history of computer worms, their past, present, and their possible future, but before we start this discussion about computer worms lets first define some computer terminology. It is important that we have these definitions up front not only because we will need them to help explain the rest of this paper, it is also important to discuss this now because the term computer virus is often used interchangeably to refer to computer worms. This may cause confusion with some readers as this paper is focusing on computer worms, not computer viruses. I have chosen not to address viruses because, although viruses take advantage of network services such as the Internet to spread, viruses are currently somewhat less common than worms, and viruses do not seem to have emulated the scale of disruptive behavior, and monetary damage that current computer worms are capable of inflecting on today’s computer networks.

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