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ARCHIVE: 'Phage List' - Archives (1988 - 1989)
DOCUMENT: phage #155 [NYT/Wines: FBI investigating computer VIRUS case.] (1 message, 1765 bytes)
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From: (the tty of Geoff Goodfellow)
To: phage
Date: Tue 11:02:47 08/11/1988 EST
Subject: NYT/Wines: FBI investigating computer VIRUS case.
References: [Thread Prev: 154] [Thread Next: 156] [Message Prev: 154] [Message Next: 162]

A3656  7-Nov-88  18:23
c.1988 N.Y. Times News Service=

	   WASHINGTON _ The Federal Bureau of Investigation began an
official criminal investigation Monday of the computer ``virus''
that crippled a nationwide Pentagon data network last week, and
officials indicated that a decision on whether to prosecute the
author of the renegade computer program was near.
	   Charles Steinmetz, a spokesman for the bureau, said an informal
inquiry into the computer incident over the weekend uncovered
``enough elements there for the Federals to investigate it
officially'' as a probable criminal act.
	   ``The matter is high priority,'' said Milt Ahlerich, the FBI's
chief spokesman.
	   A second law-enforcement official indicated, however, that it
was unclear whether the implanting of the virus in the Arpanet data
network, which brought 6,000 computer terminals to an electronic
standstill last Wednesday, could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or
as a felony.
	   The man suspected of planting the virus in a Cornell University
computer terminal, Robert Tappan Morris, 23, a graduate student at
Cornell University, appeared briefly with his father outside his
parents' home in Arnold, Md., Monday afternoon, but declined to
discuss the incident.
	   It was the first time he had been seen in public since his name
was linked to the computer virus on Saturday.
	   Morris' father, Robert T. Morris Sr., is the chief computer
scientist for the National Computer Security Center near Baltimore,
the federal agency responsible for protecting classified data and
other national security information stored in computers.
	   Speaking outside his home, he said that ``everything I have
heard indicates that there was no intent of damage'' when the virus
was set loose in the Arpanet system.
	   Monday the younger Morris retained a Washington lawyer, Thomas
A. Guidoboni, to handle legal issues stemming from the incident.
	   ``We have notified the federal authorities of our representation
and his whereabouts,'' Guidoboni said in a statement. ``We are in
the process of investigating the facts and circumstances which have
been reported by the press in order to determine our course of
	   The FBI investigation of the younger Morris centers on potential
violations of a recent law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of
	   The law makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and up to a
year in jail, to knowingly use a government computer without
authorization and to disrupt its normal operation. A second
violation is a felony and can be punished by a fine and up to 10
years in jail.
	   Under a second law being studied by federal officials in the
case, the use of a government computer to commit fraud is a felony
punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 20 years in prison.
	   No one has been prosecuted under the 1986 law.
	   One federal law-enforcement official familiar with the statute
said it was unclear whether the law applied to the virus incident
because no fraud or damage appears to have occurred and because it
was uncertain whether the person who created the virus intended to
plant it in government computer terminals.