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   a system was `wanked'?

  

   It meant NASA had lost control over its computer systems.

  

   A NASA scientist logging in to an infected computer on that Monday got

   the following message:

  

   deleted file <filename1>

  

   deleted file <filename2>

  

   deleted file <filename3>

  

   deleted file <filename4>

  

   deleted file <filename5>

  

   deleted file <filename6>

  

   With those lines the computer told the scientist: `I am deleting all

   your files'.

  

   The line looked exactly as if the scientist typed in the

   command:

  

   delete/log *.*

  

   --exactly as if the scientist had instructed the computer to delete

   all the files herself.

  

   The NASA scientist must have started at the sight of her files rolling

   past on the computer screen, one after another, on their way to

   oblivion. Something was definitely wrong. She would have tried to stop

   the process, probably pressing the control key and the `c' key at the

   same time. This should have broken the command sequence at that moment

   and ordered the computer to stop what it was doing right away.

  

   But it was the intruder, not the NASA scientist, who controlled the

   computer at that moment. And the intruder told the computer: `That

   command means nothing. Ignore it'.

  

   The scientist would press the command key sequence again, this time

   more urgently. And again, over and over. She would be at once baffled

   at the illogical nature of the computer, and increasingly upset.

   Weeks, perhaps months, of work spent uncovering the secrets of the

   universe. All of it disappearing before her eyes--all of it being

   mindlessly devoured by the computer. The whole thing beyond her

   control. Going. Going. Gone.

  

   People tend not to react well when they lose control over their

   computers. Typically, it brings out the worst in them--hand-wringing

   whines from the worriers, aching entreaties for help from the

   sensitive, and imperious table-thumping bellows from

   command-and-control types.

  

   Imagine, if you will, arriving at your job as a manager for one of

   NASA's local computer systems. You get into your office on that Monday

   morning to find the phones ringing. Every caller is a distraught,

   confused NASA worker. And every caller assures you that his or her

   file or accounting record or research project--every one of which is