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An Illustrated Guide To The World's "Deadliest" Computer Viruses

"Computer Virus Catalog" is a creative throwback to the days of nefarious malware hidden in P2P music files. The vibrant homages will make you shudder.
July 14, 2014, 4:17pm

Marburg by Hort

In the early 2000s, my parents banned me from using any post-Napster, peer-to-peer music download program (RIP KaZaa, Morpheus, Bear Share…) due to the nefarious computer viruses that often hid under the guise of Blink-182 file rips. Click the wrong link to Dude Ranch and BOOM, a poisonous digi-bug would surge through your motherboard, rendering your hardware useless as blood curdling red x's and warning symbols led a visual coup d'etat on your desktop.

Bas van de Poel, a writer and creative brand consultant, has aggregated the world's most vile computer viruses and asked 20 artist to create an illustrated interpretation of the bugs in a series titled Computer Virus CatalogFrom Marburg, a virus from 1998 that infected people who used the popular MGM/EA game Wargames with a deluge of critical error icons, to Stuxnet, a government-made virus created to wipe out Iran's nuclear facilities, the images are a vibrant take on some nasty malware.

Each illustration is unique to the artist's style—as some literally interpret the effects of a given virus, while others are abstract recreations. "The fascinating stories behind the viruses helped shapes the artists' interpretations," explains the project page. Implant, for example, was designed by visual artist Karbon. The DOS virus forced your computer to display a high res photo of a scantily-clad blonde woman wearing lingerie. If you tried to restart your computer, the lascivious avatar would erase your entire hard drive. Implant is recreated as a glitchy, technicolored wall with a cartoon model hiding behind a floppy desk in the forefront. The works are vibrant and tasteful drawings that recall a time when our computers were fragile, despite their bulky frames.

See some of the entries below, along with descriptions of the viruses represented. Surprisingly, no homages to MacAfee or other anti-malware programs get the nod.

Madman by Jay Wright

"Madman is a DOS virus infecting .EXE files. Whenever you hit CTRL-ALT-DEL the virus displays an ASCII picture of an angry red-faced amigo. Hit your keyboard again and the virus displays the creepy message: 'Nothing can save you here, friend - you're in my world now!'_"

Ika-Tako by Saïd Kinos

"Ika-Tako (Japanese for squid-octopus) spreads via P2P file sharing network Winny, disguising itself as a music file. When executed, the Windows virus replaces photos, applications and vital system files with images of squids_"

Stuxnet by Mel Nguyen

"Stuxnet is a joint effort of the US and Israel, designed to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. This highly sophisticated Windows worm reportedly destroyed roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, by causing them to spin out of control. Mission accomplished_"

Implant by Karborn

"DOS virus Implant displays a high res photo of a blonde bombshell wearing nothing but lingerie. The quality of the image is remarkable since DOS runs video in text mode. After rebooting your computer you will notice the babe erased your entire hard drive_"

Skulls by Anthony Burrill

Skulls targets Nokia phones running Symbian OS. After infection, the trojan replaces all app icons with scalps and tries to drain the battery. Skulls spreads itself by texting malicious links to all contacts, including ex-girlfriends and your evil boss. This results in sky-high phone bills and occasionally sweet revenge_

For more on this project, head over to


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