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There are certain things that you'll hear about shortly after you start actively using the Internet. Most people assume that everyone's familiar with them, and they require no additional explanation. If only that were true!
This section addresses a few topics that are commonly encountered and asked about as a new user explores Cyberspace. Some of them are directly related to how the networks are run today; other points are simply interesting to read about.
On November 2, 1988, Robert Morris, Jr., a graduate student in Computer Science at Cornell, wrote an experimental, self-replicating, self-propagating program called a worm and injected it into the Internet. He chose to release it from MIT, to disguise the fact that the worm came from Cornell. Morris soon discovered that the program was replicating and reinfecting machines at a much faster rate than he had anticipated--there was a bug. Ultimately, many machines at locations around the country either crashed or became "catatonic." When Morris realized what was happening, he contacted a friend at Harvard to discuss a solution. Eventually, they sent an anonymous message from Harvard over the network, instructing programmers how to kill the worm and prevent reinfection. However, because the network route was clogged, this message did not get through until it was too late. Computers were affected at many sites, including universities, military sites, and medical research facilities. The estimated cost of dealing with the worm at each installation ranged from $200 to more than $53,000. (12)
The program took advantage of a hole in the debug mode of the Unix
sendmail program, which runs on a system and waits for other
systems to connect to it and give it email, and a hole in the
daemon fingerd, which serves
(see section Finger). People at the University of California at Berkeley
and MIT had copies of the program and were actively
disassembling it (returning the program back into its source
form) to try to figure out how it worked.
Teams of programmers worked non-stop to come up with at least a temporary fix, to prevent the continued spread of the worm. After about twelve hours, the team at Berkeley came up with steps that would help retard the spread of the virus. Another method was also discovered at Purdue and widely published. The information didn't get out as quickly as it could have, however, since so many sites had completely disconnected themselves from the network.
After a few days, things slowly began to return to normalcy and everyone wanted to know who had done it all. Morris was later named in The New York Times as the author (though this hadn't yet been officially proven, there was a substantial body of evidence pointing to Morris).
Robert T. Morris was convicted of violating the computer Fraud and Abuse Act (Title 18), and sentenced to three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, a fine of $10,050, and the costs of his supervision. His appeal, filed in December, 1990, was rejected the following March.
First in an article entitled "Stalking the Wily Hacker," and later in the book The Cuckoo's Egg, Clifford Stoll detailed his experiences trying to track down someone breaking into a system at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California.(13)
A 75-cent discrepancy in the Lab's accounting records led Stoll on a chase through California, Virginia, and Europe to end up in a small apartment in Hannover, West Germany. Stoll dealt with many levels of bureaucracy and red tape, and worked with the FBI, the CIA, and the German Bundespost trying to track his hacker down.
The experiences of Stoll, and particularly his message in speaking engagements, have all pointed out the dire need for communication between parties on a network of networks. The only way everyone can peacefully co-exist in Cyberspace is by ensuring rapid recognition of any existing problems.
The indomitable need for humans to congregate and share their common interests is also present in the computing world. User groups exist around the world, where people share ideas and experiences. Similarly, there are organizations which are one step "above" user groups; that is to say, they exist to encourage or promote an idea or set of ideas, rather than support a specific computer or application of computers.
The Association for Computing Machinery (the ACM) was founded in 1947, immediately after Eckert and Mauchly unveiled one of the first electronic computers, the ENIAC, in 1946. Since then, the ACM has grown by leaps and bounds, becoming one of the leading educational and scientific societies in the computer industry.
The ACM's stated purposes are:
Membership in the ACM has grown from seventy-eight in September, 1947, to over 77,000 today. There are local chapters around the world, and many colleges and universities endorse student chapters. Lecturers frequent these meetings, which tend to be one step above the normal "user group" gathering. A large variety of published material is also available at discounted prices for members of the association.
The ACM has a number of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that
concentrate on a certain area of computing, ranging from graphics to
the Ada programming language to security. Each of the SIGs also
publishes its own newsletter. There is a Usenet group,
comp.org.acm, for the discussion of ACM topics. See section Usenet News for more information on reading news.
For more information and a membership application, write to:
Assocation for Computing Machinery 1515 Broadway New York City, NY 10036
The CPSR is an alliance of computer professionals concentrating on certain areas of the impact of computer technology on society. It traces its history to the fall of 1981, when several researchers in Palo Alto, California, organized a lunch meeting to discuss their shared concerns about the connection between computing and the nuclear arms race. Out of that meeting and the discussions which followed, CPSR was born, and has been active ever since.(14)
The national CPSR program focuses on the following project areas:
For more information on the CPSR, contact them at:
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility P.O. Box 717 Palo Alto, CA 94302
email@example.com(415) 322--3778 (415) 322--3798 (Fax)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was established to help civilize the "electronic frontier"---the Cyberspacial medium becoming ever-present in today's society; to make it truly useful and beneficial not just to a technical elite, but to everyone; and to do this in a way which is in keeping with the society's highest traditions of the free and open flow of information and communication.(15)
The mission of the EFF is
The Usenet newsgroups
comp.org.eff.news are dedicated to discussion concerning the
EFF. They also have mailing list counterparts for those that don't
have access to Usenet,
firstname.lastname@example.org. The first is an informal arena (aka
a normal newsgroup) where anyone may voice his or her opinions. The
comp.org.eff.news, is a moderated area for regular
postings from the EFF in the form of EFFector Online. To
submit a posting for the EFFector Online, or to get general
information about the EFF, write to
email@example.com. There is
also a wealth of information available via anonymous FTP on
The EFF can be contacted at
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Inc. 155 Second St. #1 Cambridge, MA 02141
firstname.lastname@example.org(617) 864-0665 (617) 864-0866 (Fax)
The Free Software Foundation was started by Richard Stallman (creator of the popular GNU Emacs editor). It is dedicated to eliminating restrictions on copying, redistributing, and modifying software.
The word "free" in their name does not refer to price; it refers to freedom. First, the freedom to copy a program and redistribute it to your neighbors, so that they can use it as well as you. Second, the freedom to change a program, so that you can control it instead of it controlling you; for this, the source code must be made available to you.
The Foundation works to provide these freedoms by developing free compatible replacements for proprietary software. Specifically, they are putting together a complete, integrated software system called "GNU" that is upward-compatible with Unix.(16) When it is released, everyone will be permitted to copy it and distribute it to others. In addition, it will be distributed with source code, so you will be able to learn about operating systems by reading it, to port it to your own machine, and to exchange the changes with others.
For more information on the Free Software Foundation and the status of
the GNU Project, or for a list of the current tasks that still need to
be done, write to
The League for Programming Freedom is a grass-roots organization of professors, students, businessmen, programmers and users dedicated to "bringing back" the freedom to write programs, which they contend has been lost over the past number years. The League is not opposed to the legal system that Congress intended--copyright on individual programs. Their aim is to reverse the recent changes made by judges in response to special interests, often explicitly rejecting the public interest principles of the Constitution.
The League works to abolish the new monopolies by publishing articles, talking with public officials, boycotting egregious offenders, and in the future may intervene in court cases. On May 24, 1989, the League picketed Lotus headquarters because of their lawsuits, and then again on August 2, 1990. These marches stimulated widespread media coverage for the issue. They welcome suggestions for other activities, as well as help in carrying them out.
For information on the League and how to join, write to
League for Programming Freedom 1 Kendall Square #143 P.O. Box 9171 Cambridge, MA 02139
Research and development are two buzz words often heard when discussing the networking field--everything needs to go faster, over longer distances, for a lower cost. To "keep current," one should read the various trade magazines and newspapers, or frequent the networking-oriented newsgroups of Usenet. If possible, attend trade shows and symposia like Usenix, Interop, et. al.
The National Research and Education Network (NREN) is a five-year
project approved by Congress in the Fall of 1991. It's intended to
create a national electronic "super-highway." The NREN will be 50
times faster than the fastest available networks (at the time of this
writing). Proponents of the NREN claim it will be possible to
transfer the equivalent of the entire text of the Encyclopedia
Britannica in one second. Further information, including the original
text of the bill presented by Senator Al Gore (D--TN), is available
through anonymous FTP to
nis.nsf.net, in the directory
`nsfnet'. In addition, Vint Cerf wrote on the then-proposed NREN
in RFC-1167, Thoughts on the National Research and Education
Network. See section Requests for Comments for information on obtaining RFCs.
A mailing list, `email@example.com', is available for discussion of the NREN; write to `firstname.lastname@example.org' to be added.
"To talk in publick, to think in solitude, to read and to hear, to inquire, and to answer inquiries, is the business of a scholar." Samuel Johnson Chapter VIII The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
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