Teaching the Dow's Tech Leaders to Play Defense

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On this day in economic and financial history ...

Savvy Internet users know better than to click on strange files, but in 1988, the idea of an Internet virus  had yet to take hold -- perhaps because the idea of the Internet hadn't spread far beyond the halls of academia. The highly public discovery and eradication of the Morris worm bore a few similarities to the classic 1980s movie WarGames, including worm creator Robert T. Morris' vague resemblance to preternaturally youthful WarGames star Matthew Broderick.

On Nov. 4, 1988, some of the country's leading computer scientists finally unmasked Morris, at the time described as a "brilliant" Cornell graduate student and the son of one of the government's top network security specialists. The Morris worm had by this point infected nearly all of the nodes on the 300-member ARPANET, reserved for research by major public and private institutions. The successful scrubbing of the Morris worm from ARPANET helped boost the largely unprotected network's security, as Defense Department officials crowed that modifications had been made to prevent a similar "act of sabotage."

Today, the Internet is teeming with all forms of unsavory malware. A study released in mid-2012 estimated that computer viruses cost the world's businesses a staggering $1.5 trillion per year in lost productivity. U.S. businesses shoulder a $266 billion annual cost for dealing with virus-wrought havoc. 

American businesses have a lot of options for protection, though. Two Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) components are major antivirus purveyors -- Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is the leading provider of antivirus software in North America, with a 27% total market share, and Intel's (Nasdaq: INTC  ) McAfee, which controls more than 5%. Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC  ) has one of the largest slices of the pie relative to its size, controlling 21% of the North American antivirus market. Dow component Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) also works to keep its customers safe with higher-end security solutions focused on various layers of email defense and screening .

Which Dow leaders have the most riding on their users' security? None of them want to leave holes for clever hackers to breach, but how they deal with these constant problems can offer a glimpse into their corporate mindset. The Fool's premium research service can help curious investors peel back the onion of their favorite tech companies, exposing layer after layer of risk, reward, potential, and pitfall. Whether you're interested in Microsoft, Intel, or Cisco, our top tech analysts have compiled a wealth of data to help you figure out whether these companies' futures are as secure as their antivirus protections. Simply click on your preferred company to subscribe today for a full year of in-depth access:

Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter, @TMFBiggles, for more news and insights.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Cisco Systems, Microsoft, and Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing puts on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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