Striking on July 19, the so-called Code Red worm infected more than 360,000
computers throughout the world in less than 14 hours. The rapid rate at which the
worm spread, without human intervention, vividly demonstrated how such a rogue
computer program can interfere with the Internet.
The Code Red worm failed in achieving its goal: overwhelming the White House Web
site by attacking it with simultaneous messages from all the infected computers.
Nonetheless, it caused considerable disruption for everyone with vulnerable
systems. It could have been much worse.
With a more efficient infection strategy, a malicious programmer could build a
worm that attacks all vulnerable machines worldwide in about 15 minutes, says
computer science graduate student Nicholas C. Weaver of the University of
California, Berkeley. Such a worm "could cause maximum damage before people could
respond," he contends.