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Worm

A worm is a malicious program that spreads copies of itself through a network. The primary difference between a worm and a standard virus is that, whereas a virus seeks to embed itself into existing programs in order to alter code or data in some way, a worm exists to make standalone copies of itself that spread as quickly as possible. To this end, worms are built to attack networks rather than individual computers. Worms that are built to self-replicate without bound in an effort to exhaust some particular resource are sometimes also called "rabbits."(1)

The first worm, sometimes called the Robert Morris worm? after its creator, was released on the Internet on November 2, 1988. It caused serious damage to the network not only by infecting systems, but by causing many system administrators to remove their machines from the network for fear of infection. Estimates of the damage the worm caused range from $100,000 to $97 million. Another example is the SQL Slammer (sometimes called Sapphire) worm. The SQL Slammer worm was notorious for the speed with which it spread upon its release on January 25, 2003. Within ten minutes, the worm infected more than 75,000 hosts, about ninety percent of all those vulnerable. Though the worm contained no malicious payload, its rapid propagation caused network overloads and disabled database servers.(2)

Notes

1 , 2 : Charles P. Pfleeger and Shari Lawrence Pfleeger, Security in Computing. 3rd Edition, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003.


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