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Creator of Computer Worm Pleads Innocent

August 3, 1989

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ The alleged creator of a computer ″worm″ that invaded and immobilized thousands of computers across the country in November has pleaded innocent to a felony charge.

In a five-minute arraignment Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Gustave DiBianco, Robert T. Morris, 24, of Arnold, Md., entered the plea to a one- count indictment handed up last week by a federal grand jury.

The indictment charged Morris with gaining unauthorized access to computers, preventing authorized access to computers and causing losses in excess of $1,000 under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. It is the first time felony charges have been brought against an individual using the three-year-old law.

Federal prosecutors charge that Morris created the worm program that clogged a computer network shared by colleges, research centers and the military.

It took several days to cleanse the system of the worm, which multiplied out of control, overloading the memories of the computer systems it invaded. Computer industry experts estimated the down time and working hours needed to combat the worm cost from $5 million to $12 million.

The suspended Cornell University graduate student was released on his own recognizance. He ignored reporters’ questions during his court appearance.

Thomas Guidoboni, Morris’ attorney, would say only: ″They did charge him and now they have to prove it.″

″We want to preserve the integrity of the government’s computer system - not just the government, but the entire computer community,″ said Justice Department attorney Mark Rasch.

If convicted, Morris faces a maximum five-year jail sentence and $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, Morris’ worm invaded computers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center in California and the U.S. Air Force Logistics Command at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, as well as dozen of universities.

The trial is not expected to begin before next year.

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