Gene Spafford

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Eugene Spafford talks about computer security at LinuxForum 2000 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Eugene "Gene" Howard Spafford (born 1956), commonly known as Spaf, is a professor of computer science at Purdue University and a leading computer security expert. A historically significant Internet figure, he is renowned for first analyzing the Morris Worm, one of the earliest computer worms, and for his prominent role in the Usenet backbone cabal.


  • Our examination of computer viruses leads us to the conclusion that they are very close to what we might define as "artificial life." Rather than representing a scientific achievement, this probably represents a flaw in our definition.
    • "Computer Viruses: A Form of Artificial Life?" (invited contribution); Artificial Life II, Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, vol. XII, eds. D. Farmer, C. Langton, S. Rasmussen, and C. Taylor; Addison-Wesley; pp. 727–747; 1991.
  • The only truly secure system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards - and even then I have my doubts.
    • "Computer Recreations: Of Worms, Viruses and Core War" by A. K. Dewdney in Scientific American, March 1989, pp 110.
  • Secure web servers are the equivalent of heavy armored cars. The problem is, they are being used to transfer rolls of coins and checks written in crayon by people on park benches to merchants doing business in cardboard boxes from beneath highway bridges. Further, the roads are subject to random detours, anyone with a screwdriver can control the traffic lights, and there are no police.
    • Web Security & Commerce (O'Reilly, 1997, S. Garfinkel & G. Spafford), pp 9.
  • At the least, even if (my farewell post) is perceived as self-indulgent garbage, it will fit right in with the rest of the Net.
  • People don't seem to think before posting, they are purposely rude, they blatantly violate copyrights, they crosspost everywhere, use 20 line signature files, and do basically every other thing the postings (and common sense and common courtesy) advise not to. Regularly, there are postings of questions that can be answered by the newusers articles, clearly indicating that they aren't being read. "Sendsys" bombs and forgeries abound. People rail about their "rights" without understanding that every right carries responsibilities that need to be observed too, not least of which is to respect others' rights as you would have them respect your own. Reason, etiquette, accountability, and compromise are strangers in far too many newsgroups these days.
  • Usenet is like a herd of performing elephants with diarrhea -- massive, difficult to redirect, awe-inspiring, entertaining, and a source of mind-boggling amounts of excrement when you least expect it.
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