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Most people would find it hard to label a computer infected with six of the worst-known viruses, which combined have cost the world $95 billion, as art. However, Chinese digital artist Guo O Dong strongly believes his malware loaded "Persistence of Chaos"— a Samsung NC10, which runs on Windows XP — is a masterpiece. What's more, the creator claims to have sold the "artwork" to an anonymous buyer for an astounding $1.345 million in an online auction on May 25, 2019.
According to Dong's website, "Persistence of Chaos," which was built in collaboration with New York cybersecurity company Deep Instinct, contains six dangerous "worms." Among them is ILOVEYOU, a computer bug from 2000 that appeared as a “love letter” attached to emails and cost the world an estimated $15 billion. Then there is the Sobig worm, which doubled as a trojan horse — meaning it could masquerade as something other than malware — that set back computer users a costly $37 billion in 2003.
"Persistence of Chaos" also comes with MyDoom, a 2004 junk mail virus that holds the record for both the fastest spreading e-mail worm, and the costliest — it resulted in an estimated $38.5 billion in damage! Rounding up the deadly list is BlackEnergy, a 2007 malicious cyber-attack tool capable of bringing down computers and servers remotely; WannaCry, a 2017 crypto worm that hijacked business websites and forced companies to pay a ransom, and Dark Tequila, which stole financial information from blissfully oblivious Latin American computer owners in 2018.
Guo told The Verge that he created his masterpiece to demonstrate the abstract threats posed by the digital world. The contemporary artist said, “We have this fantasy that things that happen in computers can’t actually affect us, but this is absurd. Weaponized viruses that affect power grids or public infrastructure can cause direct harm."
Those worried the new owner might use his "artwork" to cause havoc worldwide can rest easy. In addition to the condition that the buyer purchase the infected computer for academic reasons with no "intention of disseminating any malware," Guo has also disabled the laptop’s internet capabilities and available ports. As long as the "Persistence of Chaos" remains in this condition, there is little danger of it causing any harm.
Resources: digitaltrends.com, theverge.com, thepersistenceofchaos.com