Malware becomes art as a laptop infected with 6 of the most infamous and dangerous computer viruses has been put up for auction.
Altogether, the six viruses are responsible for an estimated £75 billion in damages worldwide.
Sound like a strange thing to create? The piece is entitled Persistence of Chaos and was created by Chinese artist Guo Dong. It was created in collaboration with Deep Instinct, a cybersecurity firm.
Guo Dong first gained notoriety back in 2014 for his performance art, Hipster on a Leash. Essentially, he rode a Segway around Brooklyn holding a leash attached to a typical Brooklyn “hipster”
Back to Persistence of Chaos, the Samsung netbook running Windows XP carries ILOVEYOU, MyDoom, SoBig, DarkTequila, BlackEnergy and WannaCry. These 6 names seem innocuous and even ridiculous but have caused global financial damage.
ILOVEYOU was a notorious pest in the 2000s and disguised as a love letter email, affected 45 million computers. As the virus spread, it caused almost £12 billion in damage. Yes, you read that right. Billion.
WannaCry hit more than 200,000 in Europe in May 2017, wreaking havoc across the continent. It resulted in nearly £80m worth of damage to the NHS before the hacker was found and arrested.
Guo explained to Vice News that, with the project, he wanted to explore how the threat of malware is perceived.
“These pieces of software seem so abstract, almost fake with their funny, spooky names, but I think they emphasize that the web and IRL are not different spaces,” Guo said in an email. “Malware is one of the most tangible ways that the internet can jump out of your monitor and bite you.”
Considering the damage this malware can do, the computer can only be sold under specific terms. It is illegal to sell malware in normal circumstances.
The terms of sale stated: ‘The sale of malware for operational purposes is illegal in the United States. As a buyer you recognize that this work represents a potential security hazard. By submitting a bid you agree and acknowledge that you’re purchasing this work as a piece of art or for academic reasons, and have no intention of disseminating any malware.’
The computer has been air-gapped so that it is incapable of accessing the internet. It has also had all of its ports disabled to avoid the dangerous viruses reaching other computers.
As per the auction listing on thepersistenceofchaos.com, the following malware is preloaded onto the computer.
The ILOVEYOU virus, distributed via email and file sharing, affected 500,000+ systems and caused $15B in damages total, with $5.5Bn in damages being caused in the first week.
MyDoom, potentially commissioned by Russian e-mail spammers, was one of the fastest spreading worms. It's projected that this virus caused $38Bn in damages.
SoBig was a worm and trojan that circulated through emails as viral spam. This piece of malware could copy files, email itself to others, and could damage computer software/hardware. This piece of malware caused $37Bn in damages and affected hundreds of thousands of PCs.
WannaCry was an extremely virulent ransomware cryptoworm that also set up backdoors on systems. The attack affected 200,000+ computers across 150 countries, and caused the NHS $100M in damages with further totals accumulating close to $4Bn.
A sophisticated and evasive piece of malware that targeted users mainly in Latin America, DarkTequila stole bank credentials and corporate data even while offline. DarkTequila costed millions in damages across many users.
BlackEnergy 2 uses sophisticated rootkit/process-injection techniques, robust encryption, and a modular architecture known as a "dropper". BlackEnergy was used in a cyberattack that prompted a large-scale blackout in Ukraine in December 2015.
It remains to be seen what will become of such an intriguing purchase, it certainly feels like the plot of a movie where the supervillain has an ulterior motive.
Let’s hope Guo O Dong and Deep Instinct have done everything they can to prevent this dangerous malware from finding their way online….