Teach worms a lesson from Waterloo

Friday, 5 September 2003, 4:20 PM EST

A world weary of computer viruses needs to take a tip from Nathan Rothschild.

Like other financial institutions in the summer of 1815, the House of Rothschild--owned by the London businessman's family--realized that its future depended on the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo. Holding bonds from the winning side guaranteed success; holding the debt of the losers meant ruin.

The difference between the Rothschilds and everyone else, however, was that the family had built and honed its own rapid courier system. When it became clear that Napoleon was facing defeat, the company's encrypted messages began to wing their way from the battlefield in Belgium to London, reaching Rothschild on June 18, 1815--beating the official courier.

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