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The Ultimate Virus-Infected Computer Fetches $1.35M At Auction

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The most expensive laptop in the world costs $3.5 million, and it’s studded in Swarovski diamonds, with a gold-plated shell. But now we have a runner up--a $200 Samsung NC10 with no bling at all. Instead, its claim to fame is that it hosts the six most destructive computer viruses ever released (so far), making it worth $1.35 million at a recent auction.

The work of art was rendered by Internet artist Guo O Dong, who titled the piece “The Persistence of Chaos” after commissioning cybersecurity firm DeepInstinct to infect the computer with the six most dangerous types of malware.

The artistic point? To demonstrate that abstract threats can easily become physical by taking the shape of the worst cyber threats created by man.  

The six viruses on Guo’s 2008 Samsung laptop caused economic damage worth $95 billion in total, according to the artist’s own estimates.   

“We have this fantasy that things that happen in computers can’t actually affect us, but this is absurd,” says Guo. “Weaponized viruses that affect power grids or public infrastructure can cause direct harm.”

The six viruses Guo used bore those kitch tech-geek names such as “BlackEnergy”, “DarkTequila”, “ILOVEYOU”, “MyDoom”, “SoBig”, and “WannaCry” and were anything but innocuous. Each of them would become a nightmare of destruction for users whose devices were infected.  

#1 ILOVEYOU, circa 2000, typically appeared as a love letter attached to emails and ended up affecting 500,000 systems and causing some 15 billion in damages before it ran its course.

#2 MyDoom was the most destructive virus of Guo’s collection, causing over $38 billion in damage in the end. Related: A Mentality Problem? Many Americans Can’t Afford An Extra $400 Expense

#3 Sobig caused an estimated $37.1 billion in damage upon its release in 2003 and at the time--before MyDoom--was considered the most destructive ever released, in multiple version. In its sixth version, Sobig managed to briefly halt freight and computer traffic in Washington, D.C., and even to ground Air Canada and slow computer systems at major companies.

#4 WannaCry, from 2017, has affected more than 200,000 computers worldwide in a ransomware virus that has caused an estimated $4 billion in damage and earned some $100,000 in ransoms from victims who paid to have their access to systems restored.  

#5 DarkTequila, released in 2013, specifically attacked bank customers in Latin America, collected personal data from infected computers and causing millions in damages.

#6 "BlackEnergy", was originally aimed at illicit data collection but soon morphed into some much bigger--a threat to critical infrastructure. The virus was infamously used in a cyberattack that caused a large-scale blackout in Ukraine in December 2015.

Guo’s laptop which sold last week for $1.35 million to an anonymous buyer, may now be a relic of the past with Deep Instinct spokesman Jonathan Kaftzan describing the malware as “old” and no longer harmful, new malware is popping up at an alarming rate, and each time it is more advanced and more potentially destructive. Guo’s “The Persistence of Chaos” is indeed a nod to the persistence of malware--and we haven’t seen anything yet. This arsenal is about to become many times bigger and more powerful.

By Michael Kern for conil.me

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