For real, someone just purchased a malware-filled laptop at an auction for a whopping $1.3 million. The laptop, a Samsung NC10, is called "The Persistence of Chaos" and is something of an art project.
The device contains six viruses that have caused an estimated $95 billion in total damages. Nope, it's not meant to be a tool at all — rather, it's a way to give abstract cyber threats a physical form.
The Persistence Of Chaos
The Persistence of Chaos was commissioned by cybersecurity firm Deep Instinct. The artist behind the project, Guo O Dong, says the art piece contains viruses such as WannaCry, which wreaked havoc and infected more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries, causing nearly $4 billion in damages. It's also got BlackEnergy, the virus that shut down a Ukrainian power grid, among other terrible things.
The Persistence of Chaos also has ILOVEYOU, MyDoom, SoBig, and DarkTequila. Each is supposed to act as a reminder that ransomware can render real-life consequences and cause harm in the actual, physical realm.
"We have this fantasy that things that happen in computers can't actually affect us, but this is absurd," according to Guo. "Weaponized viruses that affect power grids or public infrastructure can cause direct harm."
Alone, the device is perfectly safe. Unless, of course, one plugs in their USB or connects it to their Wi-Fi network. It's also isolated and air-gapped to prevent foul play. As Engadget notes, it's similar to a dormant grenade — safe unless someone pulls the pin out. While the viruses here are safe, they're outdated since new forms of ransomware are probably being developed already. Just this month, a ransomware attack hit the city of Baltimore, freezing systems and disrupting "estate sales, water bills, health alerts."
A livestream of the art piece is available online, which as of writing shows the laptop on top of small table marooned within a "caution" strip. Alongside the laptop is a live view of the display's contents, which shows the ransomware at work. The final bid is at $1,345,000, so it seems the auction is closed as of this writing. That might seem a lot to pay for a laptop that's filled to the brim with the world's most catastrophic malware. Guo, however, likes to think of it differently. He considers The Persistence of Chaos as something of a "bestiary — a catalogue of historical threats."