worm n.

a program designed to sabotage a computer or computer network; spec. a self-duplicating program which can operate without becoming incorporated into another program

SF Encyclopedia


  • 1975 J. Brunner Shockwave Rider (1977) 25 John Brunner

    Fluckner had resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the store and turned loose in the continental net a self-perpetuating tapeworm, probably headed by a denunciation group ‘borrowed’ from a major corporation, which would shunt itself from one nexus to another every time his credit-code was punched into a keyboard. It could take days to kill a worm like that, and sometimes weeks.

  • 1975 J. Brunner Shockwave Rider (1977) 258 John Brunner

    This is indeed the father and mother of a tapeworm. It’s of a type known as parthenogenetic. If you’re acquainted with contemporary data-processing jargon, you'll have noticed how much use it makes of terminology derived from the study of living animals. And with reason. Not for nothing is a tapeworm called a tapeworm. It can be made to breed. Most can only do so if they are fertilized; that’s to say, if they're interfered with from outside. For example, the worm that prevents the Fedcomps from monitoring calls to Hearing Aid, and the similar but larger one that was released at Weychopee—Electric Skillet—to shut down the net in the event of enemy occupation: those are designed to lay dormant until tampered with. That’s true of all phage-type worms.

Research requirements

antedating 1975

Earliest cite

1975 J. Brunner 'Shockwave Rider'

Research History
We suspect that this is the first use, but we don't need later citations, only antedatings if any exist.

Last modified 2021-01-02 13:03:15
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.