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"[Science fiction] is the one literary medium left in which we have a free hand. We can do any damn thing we please."
- Alfred Bester

Computer Worm (Tapeworm)  
  The first description of a set of computer codes that moves from one computer to another on a network as a coherent entity.  

I believe this is the first reference to a computer tapeworm. As far as I know, Brunner invented the idea as well as the term.

At this point in the novel, the story's protagonist Sandy has found that he no longer has power in his home following a confrontation with a character named Fluckner. Checking the net, he finds that his account with the power company has been declared overdue and his power shut off. Deducing that Fluckner has set loose a tapeworm that is traversing the net damaging his credit and his livelihood, Sandy takes action.

He sent a retaliatory worm chasing Fluckner's. That should take care of the immediate problem in three to thirty minutes, depending on whether or not he beat the inevitable Monday morning circuit overload. According to recent report, there were so many worms and counterworms loose in the data-net now, the machines had been instructed to give them low priority unless they related to a medical emergency.
From The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner.
Published by Harper and Row in 1975
Additional resources -

Brunner makes interesting use of the concept in the novel. It appears that early tapeworms were really intended as normal residents (albeit hidden ones) of the data-net. The government used special purpose tapeworms; individuals, like the unhappy Mr. Fluckner, could also create them without a lot of special knowledge. Individuals sometimes used a stolen or borrowed ID (with a corporate imprimatur) to make the worm more effective.

A tapeworm is different from a computer virus in various ways. A computer virus enters its "host" (a computer system) and becomes part of another computer program. A computer tapeworm is an entity that does not necessarily seek to duplicate itself; it uses the special programming (and often some sort of ID or password to get special access) in its "head" to gain admittance. It then lives as a parasite within the host computer, utilizing host resources according to its programming. In Brunner's computer tapeworms, the tapeworms gained entry and then "fed" on data, adding copies of the data to it's (the tapeworm's) own length. The tapeworm would then leave that system to occupy others, moving through the data-net from host to host at will, continually adding new segments of copied data to itself, getting longer and longer.

In 1979, John Shoch and Jon Hupp at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center created a small program that searches a network for computers with idle processor time. Ironically, the first worms were intended to provide more efficient use of computers. Worms demonstrated a capacity for invading any computer on a network, creating the security threat that continues with viruses today.

The Morris Worm, written at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, was the first worm released on the modern Internet. Starting November 2, 1988, it used bugs in Unix and infected many computers. Robert Morris was convicted, sentenced to community service and fined.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Shockwave Rider
  More Ideas and Technology by John Brunner
  Tech news articles related to The Shockwave Rider
  Tech news articles related to works by John Brunner

Computer Worm (Tapeworm)-related news articles:
  - Mydoom Email Worm (aka Novarg Mimail)
  - Can Computer Tapeworms And Viruses Be Your Friends
  - Cyberviolence A Growing Web Trend In South Korea
  - The Flame - Malware Worthy of John Brunner

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