The New York Times has an obituary for Robert Morris. Morris was one of the smartest guys around in computer security. He is more well known for being the father of Robert Morris junior, who launched the Morris Worm back in 1988 – still the high water mark for percentage of the Internet taken down by a single piece of malware.
I was working in computer security at GTE Government Systems back in 1988, trying to build a B2 distributed computer system out of B1 parts. GTE Labs was an early node on the Internet and I used it a lot – this was in the pre-browser days, of course. “Using” the Internet meant pretty complex email software and the USENET newsgroups and telnet, largely. A friend of mine, Louie Mamakos, was the networking manager at the University of Maryland, another early player in the Internet, and spent many hours battling the damage. The impact of the Morris worm to the Internet then was much larger than anything we’ve seen since – but with much more limited press attention, because the Internet was just a geek thing at the time.
The Morris Worm lead directly to the firewall market and here we are today, spending on the order of $40B per year globally on hardware, software and services to battle software and user vulnerabilities that are still getting exploited using techniques very similar to those that Bob Morris’s son launched 23 years ago.
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