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You talk of times of peace for all; and then prepare for war. — from `Blossom of Blood', Species Deceases. It is not surprising the SPAN security team would miss the mark. It is not surprising, for example, that these officials should to this day be pronouncing the `Oilz' version of the WANK worm as `oil zee'. It is also not surprising that they hypothesised the worm's creator chose the word `Oilz' because the modifications made to the last version made it slippery, perhaps even oily. Likely as not, only an Australian would see the worm's link to the lyrics of Midnight Oil. This was the world's first worm with a political message, and the second major worm in the history of the worldwide computer networks. It was also the trigger for the creation of FIRST, the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams.2 FIRST was an international security alliance allowing governments, universities and commercial organisations to share information about computer network security incidents. Yet, NASA and the US Department of Energy were half a world away from finding the creator of the WANK worm. Even as investigators sniffed around electronic trails leading to France, it appears the perpetrator was hiding behind his computer and modem in Australia. Geographically, Australia is a long way from anywhere. To Americans, it conjures up images of fuzzy marsupials, not computer hackers. American computer security officials, like those at NASA and the US Department of Energy, had other barriers as well. They function in a world of concretes, of appointments made and kept, of real names, business cards and official titles. The computer underground, by contrast, is a veiled world populated by characters slipping in and out of the half-darkness. It is not a place where people use their real names. It is not a place where people give out real personal details.
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Suelette Dreyfus

Tech researcher, journalist, lecturer at University of Melbourne, specializes in tech's impact on whistleblowing.

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