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In 1988 a computer virus infected around 6,000 major Unix machines, replicating itself and slowing the systems down to the point of being completely unusable and reportedly causing millions of dollars in damage.
The hand behind the virus? Robert Tappan Morris. Whether this virus was the first of its type is debatable -- but one thing is set in stone. Morris became the first person to be convicted under the 1988 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Son of former National Security Agency scientist Robert Morris, the 'Morris worm' was coded when he was studying at Cornell. He asserted that the worm wasn't meant to cause any damage; instead, it was intended to 'gauge the size of the Internet'.
This didn't help, however, and Morris was given three years' probation, 400 hours of community service and a fine of $10,500. After his conviction, Morris began working as a professor at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.