Laptops infected with malware are usually either reformatted or discarded, but a Samsung NC10 filled to the brim with some of the world’s most dangerous viruses just sold for $1.35 million.
The laptop is the work of contemporary internet artist Guo o Dong, as commissioned by cybersecurity firm Deep Instinct. Titled “The Persistence of Chaos,” the malware contained within the computer is said to have caused financial damages worth a staggering $95 billion.
The Samsung NC10 is infected with the WannaCry ransomware, which affected more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries and caused nearly $4 billion in damages, including $100 million to the United Kingdom’s National Health System. Also inside the laptop is the BlackEnergy trojan, which was used in a cyberattack that caused a large-scale blackout in Ukraine in December 2015.
The other contents of the laptop are like a continuation of a who’s who in the history of malware. These are the ILOVEYOU virus that was distributed through email and file sharing to cause $15 billion in damages; the MyDoom worm that is said to have been commissioned by Russian e-mail spammers, resulting in $38 billion in damages; the SoBig worm and trojan that circulated through emails and damaged both software and hardware, affecting hundreds of thousands of PCs and dealing $37 billion in damages; and the DarkTequila malware, which stole bank credentials and company data even while offline, to the tune of millions of dollars in damages.
Guo told The Verge that the intent behind the piece was “to make physical the abstract threats posed by the digital world.”
“We have this fantasy that things that happen in computers can’t actually affect us, but this is absurd,” Guo said. “Weaponized viruses that affect power grids or public infrastructure can cause direct harm.”
The terms of the auction dictate that the winning bidder should have no intention of disseminating the malware. As an added precaution, the laptop’s internet capabilities and available ports will be disabled before it is shipped to the buyer. As long as it is maintained in its isolated and air-gapped state, the six viruses inside the computer will remain harmless.
Unfortunately, with reports such as the recent spate of ransomware attacks in Baltimore and other cities in the United States that were executed by a tool that was developed by the National Security Agency, it appears that Guo will have lots of options in case he is commissioned to do “The Persistence of Chaos V2.0.”
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