Virus writers with the god complex
Blog status: Work in Progress
Before the arrival of Windows 95, the creators of self-replicating malicious code were deeply concerned about the potential consequences of the new OS on the future of their activity. After the historical generation leap from DOS to the windows-based GUI, however, virus writers gained new confidence in their abilities, expanding their horizons and developing inclinations that occasionally turned into true megalomania. Some of the VXers from the Nineties had the god complex, and they didn’t hide it at all.
Let’s take, for instance, J. S. Bach, a member of the crew known as CodeBreakers that deals with the topic in the fifth number of the eponymous e-zine released on June 1999: the existence of computer viruses is a necessity of the digital world, J. S. Bach suggested, because there is the need for an agent entrusted with the task of regulating the otherwise limitless flow of information. The VXer referred to the usual comparison between computer viruses and biological viruses, an idea that the author had already discussed in the previous CodeBreakers number talking about artificial intelligence evolution applied to malicious code.
“When a certain event in nature takes place“, J. S. Bach wrote, nature itself makes sure to create “a safety valve against the event’s overflow.” An event is balanced by a counter event, so nature can express its dualism between life and death, white and black, male and female. Unlike nature, the flow of information is an artificial event that cannot be balanced “naturally” by a proper safety valve, the VXer stated, a phenomenon that forces digital addicts to spend “18 hours” per day in front of the monitor.
In J. S. Bach’s strongly manichaeist tale, computer viruses obviously act as that safety valve tasked with containing the spread of information, a counterbalance which is as much artificial as the world of digital communication is. The virus writer plays god in a way, J. S. Bach wrote, trying to contain the restless flow of data within the constrains of the self-replicating software technology. And what about the users unlucky enough to suffer the aftermaths of the payload of a destructive malware like Magistr? The VXer said to be sorry from a personal point of view, nevertheless he was aware of the fact that the “directive” for limiting the information flow is a priority goal.
The article by J. S. Bach is interesting because it highlights the ethical reasoning behind the creation of viruses and malware during the Nineties, a twisted ethic that will soon be replaced by a further, and perhaps final transformation of the malicious software scene. Following the boom of mass-mailing worms during the first years of the new millennium, VXers with the god complex have made way for malware authors dressed in suit. Nowadays “pure” self-replicating viruses are uncommon, malicious code is dumb and remotely controlled but the possibilities for making money with or without a ransom are endless. Just like the flow of information J. S. Bach was talking about.