Tech by VICE

A Computer Afflicted With 6 Infamous Viruses Has Passed $1 Million at Auction

The art project can be yours for a mere seven figures.

by Rob Dozier
May 21 2019, 2:20pm

Image: Guo O Dong

Bidding for a laptop infected with six of the world’s most famous computer viruses—WannaCry, BlackEnergy, ILOVEYOU, MyDoom, SoBig and DarkTequila—has topped more than $1.1 million at auction.

The art project, titled “The Persistence of Chaos,” is a collaboration between Chinese internet artist Guo O Dong, and Deep Instinct, a cybersecurity firm based in New York. Those six viruses have caused billions of dollars in damage worldwide.

The laptop is a Samsung netbook that’s been air gapped, meaning it isn’t connected to the internet and thus is unlikely to spread the viruses. The virus viewable at the top of this page is WannaCry, a ransomware attack that struck computers worldwide in 2017.

Guo explained that, with the project, he wanted to explore how the threat of malware is perceived.

“These pieces of software seem so abstract, almost fake with their funny, spooky names, but I think they emphasize that the web and IRL are not different spaces,” Guo said in an email. “Malware is one of the most tangible ways that the internet can jump out of your monitor and bite you.”

Guo is known for projects like his “HiPSTER ON A LEASH,” which involved him riding a segway around Brooklyn led by a “hipster” on a leash in 2014 and his Twitter bot, China Headlines, which tweeted headlines but replaced the names and locations with Chinese alternatives. Guo was trained as a painter, but shifted his focus to working online 12 years ago.

“This shift progressed at around the same rate as being online went from feeling enjoyable and freeing to consuming and oppressive—the change from simply being online all the time to being Extremely Online,” Guo said. “Regardless of my own computer usage I’m always online: circulating through various systems controlled by me, or companies, or governments.”

Deep Instinct worked with Guo to make sure that the viruses housed on the computer could never be exploited to cause harm. Once the auction is over, all of the computer’s ports will be disabled.

“We came to understand this project as a kind of bestiary, a catalogue of historical threats,” Guo said. “ It’s more exciting to see the beasts in a live environment.”