On Monday, bidding on a laptop that was filled with some of the most dangerous malware on the planet closed at $1.345 million. The Samsung NC10 – dubbed “The Persistence of Chaos”- holds six viruses that are known to have caused approximately $95 billion in damages. While one may assume that it was designed to harm others, that isn’t the case.
The laptop was actually commissioned by Deep Instinct, a cybersecurity firm, and is meant to serve as an art piece, a physical demonstration of the abstract concept of cyberthreats. According to a report by Engadget, the resulting Samsung NC10 was created by artist Guo O Dong.
WannaCry, a virus that caused $4 billion in damage after infecting over 200,000 computers across 150 countries, was loaded on the laptop. BlackEnergy, the malware that shut down a Ukrainian power grid, is also on the device.
Four other pieces of malware – DarkTequila, ILOVEYOU, SoBig, and MyDoom – are on the laptop as well.
The laptop is currently isolated and air-gapped, rendering it essentially harmless and making sure it can’t be used for malicious purposes without some additional effort on the part of the owner. As long as the WiFi isn’t reconnected or a USB isn’t plugged in, the laptop is safe to have around.
Additionally, while the malware on the device could still be harmful, the viruses are also considered outdated. Newer forms of ransomware have emerged since the creation of these viruses.
In comparison to today’s standards, the laptop itself – which technically falls into the netbook category – would also be considered highly outdated. It only has a 160GB hard drive and is running Microsoft Windows XP SP3. The model used for the project was originally released in 2008.
While it is viewed as an art piece, it could potentially be used for academic purposes, if the owner so chooses.
Guo O Dong also intends to create future versions of the laptop and virus-based art, likely featuring new damaging forms of malware that emerge over time.
According to the Persistence of Chaos bidding website, “Guo O Dong is [a] contemporary internet artist whose work critiques modern day extremely-online culture. The Persistence of Chaos was created as a collaboration between the artist and cybersecurity company Deep Instinct, which provided the malware and technical expertise to execute the work in a safe environment.”