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   publicly visible organisation like NASA. Whether or not the worm's

   successful expedition could be blamed on DEC's software was a moot

   point. Such a crisis was, well, undesirable. It just didn't look good.

   And it mightn't look so good either if DEC just jumped into the fray.

   It might look like the company was in some way at fault.

  

   Things were different, however, if someone already had a relationship

   with a technical expert inside the company. It wasn't like NASA

   manager cold-calling a DEC guy who sold a million dollars worth of

   machines to someone else in the agency six months ago. It was the NASA

   guy calling the DEC guy he sat next to at the conference last month.

   It was a colleague the NASA manager chatted with now and again.

  

   John McMahon's analysis suggested there were three versions of the WANK

   worm. These versions, isolated from worm samples collected from the

   network, were very similar, but each contained a few subtle

   differences. In McMahon's view, these differences could not be explained

   by the way the worm recreated itself at each site in order to

   spread. But why would the creator of the worm release different

   versions? Why not just write one version properly and fire it off? The

   worm wasn't just one incoming missile; it was a frenzied attack. It was

   coming from all directions, at all sorts of different levels within

   NASA's computers.

  

   McMahon guessed that the worm's designer had released the different

   versions at slightly different times. Maybe the creator released the

   worm, and then discovered a bug. He fiddled with the worm a bit to

   correct the problem and then released it again. Maybe he didn't like

   the way he had fixed the bug the first time, so he changed it a little

   more and released it a third time.

  

   In northern California, Kevin Oberman came to a different conclusion.

   He believed there was in fact only one real version of the worm

   spiralling through HEPNET and SPAN. The small variations in the

   different copies he dissected seemed to stem from the worm's ability

   to learn and change as it moved from computer to computer.

  

   McMahon and Oberman weren't the only detectives trying to decipher the

   various manifestations of the worm. DEC was also examining the worm,

   and with good reason. The WANK worm had invaded the corporation's own

   network. It had been discovered snaking its way through DEC's own

   private computer network, Easynet, which connected DEC manufacturing

   plants, sales offices and other company sites around the world. DEC

   was circumspect about discussing the matter publicly, but the Easynet

   version of the WANK worm was definitely distinct. It had a strange

   line of code in it, a line missing from any other versions. The worm

   was under instructions to invade as many sites as it could, with one

   exception. Under no circumstances was it to attack computers inside

   DEC's area 48. The NASA team mulled over this information. One of them

   looked up area 48. It was New Zealand.

  

   New Zealand?

  

   The NASA team were left scratching their heads. This attack was

   getting stranger by the minute. Just when it seemed that the SPAN team

   members were travelling down the right path toward an answer at the

   centre of the maze of clues, they turned a corner and found themselves

   hopelessly lost again. Then someone pointed out that New Zealand's

   worldwide claim to fame was that it was a nuclear-free zone.