Student Indicted in ’88 Computer ‘Virus’ Incident
A Cornell University graduate student was indicted Wednesday on a felony charge in connection with a computer “virus” that paralyzed as many as 6,000 computers last fall.
Robert Tappan Morris, 24, who has been suspended from the university for one year, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Syracuse, N. Y. He was charged with unauthorized use of at least four university and military computers.
The computer-crime indictment charges that the virus, an encoded program that affected a nationwide network of computers, prevented the authorized use of those computers by universities and military bases.
The Justice Department said in a statement released here that Morris was the first person to be charged under a provision of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, which prohibits unauthorized computer access and also outlaws gaining entry to damage or destroy electronic files.
The indictment followed months of deliberations within the Justice Department over whether felony or misdemeanor charges should be sought.
Defense attorney Thomas A. Guidoboni said that Morris, of Arnold, Md., would plead not guilty. If convicted, he could be sentenced to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000.
The anti-hacker law also requires restitution of losses to injured parties, but prosecutors did not specify how much damage was caused by the Nov. 2, 1988, incident, which virtually shut down a military-university computer network that is used to transmit unclassified data.