A used Samsung NC10 costs less than $200. But a used Samsung NC10 with six of the most dangerous types of malware is apparently worth $1.345 million—so long as it’s art.
Internet artist Guo O Dong created the “The Persistence of Chaos” at the behest of cybersecurity company Deep Instinct. With the help of engineers, the artist installed six types of malware into the 2008 laptop. According to the Verge, Guo chose the viruses based on the amount of financial havoc each has wreaked— BlackEnergy, DarkTequila, ILOVEYOU, MyDoom, SoBig, and WannaCry, which was used in a cyberattack in May 2017 that was alleged to have originated in North Korea, and infected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries.
The artist is currently streaming a viewing of the Pandora’s notebook on Twitch.
So long as the computer remains disconnected from wifi or USB plug, the cocktail of digital horrors it contains can’t spread. “As a buyer you recognize that this work represents a potential security hazard,” reads a disclaimer on the auction page. “By submitting a bid you agree and acknowledge that you’re purchasing this work as a piece of art or for academic reasons, and have no intention of disseminating any malware.”
Speaking to the Verge, Guo referred to the laptop as “a kind of bestiary—a catalogue of historical threats.”
The artist explained he wanted to create a physical representation of the worst cyber threats. “We have this fantasy that things that happen in computers can’t actually affect us, but this is absurd,” Guo told the Verge. “Weaponized viruses that affect power grids or public infrastructure can cause direct harm.”
According to ArtNet, the project cost around $10,000 to bring to fruition with the bulk of the expenses chalked up to taking measures to ensure the computer was completely air-gapped. While making sure that a computer is never connected online should be a relatively cheap procedure, if not free, we’ll take their word for it. No matter what, we’re looking at an insane return on investment after the auction sale.
The final bid came in late Monday night. Jonathan Kaftzan, a Deep Instinct spokesperson told Gizmodo the company does not know the identity of the winner, but the company is amazed at the price. He clarified that since all the malware in the computer is old, there is “no chance that it would cause any harm” as available virus protection safeguard against these threats.
“When this malware was unknown, and most of the solutions in the market back then could not protect against it, the damage it created and the financial loss was enormous,” Kaftzan told Gizmodo.
Deep Instinct and Guo estimate that the six viruses used in this artwork have contributed to over $95 billion in damages.
Guo told Artnet he is considering two plans for his proceeds of “The Persistence of Chaos”—spend it on another project or burn it all.