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"...science fiction is sort of like a sociological genome. It's a huge range of possible futures, most of them useless; some vital. You never really know in advance."
- Peter Watts

Net Shutdown Worm  
  A tapeworm designed to shut down a nationwide network in the event of national emergency.  

In the novel, much use is made of the idea of a computer worm (or tapeworm); Brunner originated the term as well as the idea.

Interestingly, computer tapeworms are not just used for malicious purposes. For example, the government has populated the 'net with a very special tapeworm code developed at a place code-named Electric Skillet.

This is indeed the father and mother of all tapeworms. 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.
From The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner.
Published by Harper and Row in 1975
Additional resources -

It's also interesting to note that the earliest use of real-life computer tapeworms was beneficial; it searched a small network looking for computers with idle time.

Read more about John Brunner's computer tapeworm.

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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

Net Shutdown Worm-related news articles:
  - CIA's 'Silent Horizon' Internet War Games
  - The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 Could Shut Down Your Internet
  - Egypt Drops Dime, Pulls Plug On Internet
  - Does China Have An Internet Kill Switch?

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New Startup 'Improbable' To Model Our World

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