The Big Cost of Software Bugs

By Jordan Robertson, Marcus Chan and Mark Milian - 2012-08-03T19:53:28Z

Photograph by Jean-Louis Atlan/Sygma/Corbis

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Worm Goes Wild

A program developed by a Cornell University student for what he said was supposed to be a harmless experiment wound up spreading wildly and crashing thousands of computers in 1988 because of a coding error. It was the first widespread worm attack on the fledgling Internet. The graduate student, Robert Tappan Morris, was convicted of a criminal hacking offense and fined $10,000. Morris's lawyer claimed at the trial that his client's program helped improve computer security. Costs for cleaning up the mess may have gone as high as $100 million. Morris, who co-founded the startup incubator Y Combinator, is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.