A blue 10.2-inch Samsung laptop running Windows XP - produced more than 10 years ago - has been sold for a record-breaking price to an art collector.
It’s known as the Persistence of Chaos, and it’s designed to shine a light on how innocuous yet vicious malware has become.
The Persistence of Chaos was commissioned by a New York-based cybersecurity firm, Deep Instinct, who supplied the malware to artist Guo O Dong. They also consulted with the artist as to how to properly contain the malware, in the event this expression of artistic flair began to inflict real-world damage.
On the surface, it’s a Samsung laptop. Underneath, it’s a weapon that has done nearly $100-billion in economic damage. Among the malware installed on the laptop is the infamous ‘Wannacry’ ransomware code, as well as ‘ILOVEYOU’, ‘MyDoom’, ‘SoBig’, ‘DarkTequila’ and ‘BlackEnergy’ ransomwares.
“We have this fantasy that things that happened in computers can’t actually affect us, but this is absurd,” Guo said in an interview with The Verge. “Weaponised viruses that affect power grids or public infrastructure can cause direct harm.”
According to the Washington Post, the artist and Deep Instinct have worked had to ensure the laptop doesn’t manage to infect any networks and inflict further damage. The laptop is ‘air-gapped’, which means it isn’t connected to the internet, which makes it difficult to spread its payload.
The Persistence of Chaos’ internet capabilities will reportedly be diasbled before it is shipped to its new owner. Until then, you can check out a livestream of the piece here.
The artist explains on their website that “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 UK’s NHS $100-million in damages with further totals accumulating close to $4-billion.”
They continued that “the ILOVEYOU virus, distributed via email and file sharing, affected 500,000+ systems and caused $15-billion in damages total, with $5.5-billion in damages being caused in the first week.”
“SoBig”, according to the website “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 $37-billion in damages and affected hundreds of thousands of PCs.”
MyDoom was “potentially commissioned by Russian email spammers,” according to the website, and “was one of the fastest spreading worms. It’s projected this virus caused $38-billion in damages,” while DarkTequila “stole bank credentials and corporate data even while offline,” and BlackEnergy “was used in a cyberattack that prompted a large-scale blackout in Ukraine.”
All in all, these pieces of code combined have wreaked $95-billion in real-world economic damages, according to Deep Instinct.
According to statistics from the White House Council of Economic Advisers published by the Washington Post, “malicious cyber activity costs the US economy as much as $109 billion a year. Worldwide, the annual cost is closer to $600 billion, according to a 2017 report.”