Malware becomes art as bidding for virus-infested laptop passes $1 million

Image credit: Guo O Dong / Deep Instinct

Normally, you’d want to keep malware off your laptop at any cost with antivirus, but it seems that people are prepared to pay a ridiculous amount of money – in excess of a million bucks, in fact – to purchase a virus-infested notebook if it’s declared a work of art.

The venerable Samsung netbook in question has been infected with six infamous pieces of malware, but as mentioned, this is not a laptop, but a piece of art. In other words, this isn’t a Samsung NC10-14GB 10.2-inch netbook from 2008 – this is (drum roll)... ‘The Persistence of Chaos’.

As Vice reports, this chaos-themed art project is a collaboration between Guo O Dong, a Chinese internet artist, and security firm Deep Instinct, with bidding currently running at $1.13 million (around £900,000, AU$1.65 million) at the time of writing (you’ll be pleased to hear the reserve has been successfully met).

The netbook is being live streamed on Twitch (with just over 90,000 total views thus far), although the machine isn’t doing anything except sitting there with a ransomware demand being displayed (unsurprisingly).

The six pieces of malware installed are: WannaCry, BlackEnergy, ILoveYou, MyDoom, SoBig and DarkTequila.

Although seeing as the laptop is running Windows XP, you could argue it’s a miracle that there are only six stupendously dangerous pieces of malware on the computer.

In all seriousness, the Samsung netbook has been air-gapped (meaning it isn’t connected to the internet or anything else) to prevent any spread of these nasty pieces of malware, which as the auctioneers note, have caused a total estimated financial damage of around $95 billion (£75 billion, AU$140 billion) over the years. All the PC’s ports will be disabled post-auction, too.

And that, we guess, is the real point of this art exhibit – the sheer chaos and damage caused by the truly infamous pieces of malware such as WannaCry.

The persistence of gullibility

Still, why you’d want to pay over a million for this, when you could buy your own ancient Samsung netbook on eBay, connect it to the internet with an unpatched Windows XP, and just sit back and wait for the malware to roll in, is anyone’s guess.

Of course, the answer is simple. It’s art – the tech world’s equivalent of Tracey Emin’s bed – therefore it must be worth a lot.

Another amusing point to consider here, raised by Etienne Greeff, CTO and co-founder of SecureData, is the potential reaction from the shady world of malware peddlers.

Greeff observes: “Somewhere in Russia, a hacker is wondering how he only made a measly $300,000 from his ransomware attack when he could have made $1,000,000 selling it as art. Clearly, where there is muck, there is money.

“However, there’s really no value in paying $1,000,000 for what we already know. Malware is malicious, and the people writing it are even more so. I wonder if the guy creating the installation got permission from the authors. If not, and if I were them, I would be very, very careful about how I use my computer in future.”


Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).