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With Microscope and Tweezers: An Analysis of the Internet Virus of November 1988

Mark Eichin, Jon Rochlis
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
February 1989

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In early November 1988 the Internet, a collection of networks consisting of 60,000 host computers implementing the TCP/IP protocol suite, was attacked by a virus, a programwhich broke intocomputers on the network and which spread from one machine to another. This paper is a detailed analysis of the virus programitself, as well as the reactions of the besieged Internet community. We discuss the structure of the actual program, as well as the strategies the virus used to reproduce itself. We present the chronology of events as seen by our team at MIT, one of a handful of groups around the country working to take apart the virus, in an attempt to discover its secrets and to learn the network’s vulnerabilities. We describe the lessons that this incident has taught the Internet community and topics for future consideration and resolution. A detailed routine by routine description of the virus program including the contents of its built in dictionary is provided.

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