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Samy worm creator hopes to be online again

Creator of early Web 2.0 malware says he means to use his powers for good

By Robert McMillan
November 19, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - If Samy Kamkar plays his cards right, he may be allowed to visit MySpace again in just a few months. For the time being, however, he's not even allowed to touch a computer, following a January 2007 guilty plea for creating what many consider to be the first Web 2.0 worm: the Samy worm.

Samy's worm wasn't malicious, but it did force News Corp.'s MySpace social-networking site to shut down in late 2005 after forcing more than 1 million users to declare Samy a "hero" on their profile pages.

Last week, Samy, who is now 21, made his first public appearance since his conviction, attending the OWASP App Sec 2007 conference, hosted by eBay, in San Jose, California. He was treated like a celebrity at the show, but there were some complications. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he can only use computers for work, so he was forced to show slides that he'd dictated to a friend on a computer that was operated by a conference staffer.

It's not easy being a computer geek cut off from computers, but if Samy remains a model parolee, he could be allowed to use computers again in a couple of months. He talked to IDG News Service about what life has been like since his arrest and what he plans to do as soon as he's online again.

IDGNS: What were you thinking when you wrote the Samy worm?

Kamkar: When I wrote the worm, it initially wasn't a worm. Initially I was just trying to spruce up my MySpace profile. I also wanted to show off to a couple of friends, so I thought 'wouldn't it be cool if I did this? What if I made some of these people add me as a friend automatically?' Then I figured, 'what if I made them add me as a hero?' So I wrote a little code and what ended up happening is whenever someone viewed my profile, they would automatically add 'But most of all, Samy is my hero' at the end of their hero section on their profile. And after that, I thought, 'If I can make this person my friend, if I can make myself their hero, couldn't I just copy this code onto their profile?' I didn't think this would be a big deal, so I tried it out. I thought maybe I'll get one friend tomorrow and a few in maybe a few days. It went quickly. Apparently, MySpace is a bigger place than I assumed.

IDGNS: How hard was it to write the worm?

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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