Erkez, SoBig, Slammer and other so-called viruses have been at the news forefront for months. Viruses are given names by the companies whose business is to create and sell products that prevent the virus from infecting your computer. On a side note, these companies stipulate one of the naming rules is to never use the virus names given by the writers to deny them the attention they are so desperately seeking.
Numerous articles have been written (including by yours truly) describing the need to be vigilant, take precautions and be educated. In other words, practice safe computing. Perhaps the articles have helped and computer users are less prone to help propagate these mean-spirited fiends. We at GonzoBanker thought it appropriate and educational to delve into the mind of the virus writer and let you, our faithful readers, participate with us while we interview a contributor to the fine art of virus writing.
GonzoBanker: Z0mbie, thank you for taking time away from your computer to answer a few questions. Conducting an interview electronically is a bit strange for me because I am used to interviewing individuals in person or on the phone. Watching body language and hearing the tone of a person’s voice can often give valuable clues during an interview. So if you don’t mind, let’s get started. Please tell our readers a little about yourself.
Z0mbie: ok, well i’m a dude and 18 years old.
GonzoBanker: Where do you live?
Z0mbie: duh, that’s none of your business.
GonzoBanker: OK, I understand. Can you describe your living conditions.
Z0mbie: well, i live with my parents in the balkans and i have my own room. my stupid younger brother tries to come in my room but i always thrash him and throw him out. my door has three deadbolts and a padlock on it now to keep out my idiot brother and my parents.
GonzoBanker: Do your parents know what you are doing with your computer?
Z0mbie: are you kidding me, banker dude? they would probably call the cops and have me arrested if they knew. they think i spend too much time with my computer and are constantly trying to get me interested in sports, girls, clubs and other things that force me to leave my room and my computer. NO WAY!
GonzoBanker: How long have you been interested in computers?
Z0mbie: dude, all my life. i can remember playing computer games first and really getting into that stuff. i bought every game the local store sold and worked and worked until i eliminated every enemy and reached the highest levels. some weekends i only would sleep four or five hours. i wanted to learn how to write programs and create my own games.
GonzoBanker: You obviously learned to program. Did you create any games?
Z0mbie: dude, writing games is totally hard. i tried, but the ones i wrote were crap and missing all the graphics, blood, sex and other cool stuff. it was way too hard to do.
GonzoBanker: How did you go from games to viruses?
Z0mbie: an internet friend [author’s note: this is an individual Z0mbie met on the Internet, not someone he has actually met in person] turned me on to the 29A club. i visited their web site, read some of their stuff and lurked in their chat rooms. it was a way cool group of people interested in computers and doing stuff with them. i met some cool people there like ratter and gigabyte.
GonzoBanker: You mentioned the 29A Club. What is the purpose of the club?
Z0mbie: the motto of the club is “we code viruses for the fun of it, because it’s our hobby, not because we want to harm other people or to get ourselves into trouble.” man, they provide scripts, code, information on known holes in microsoft products – it’s wicked cool.
GonzoBanker: So you go to this 29A Club and get this information to help you write a virus.
Z0mbie: you are such a dumb a__! no, i don’t go to the club, the club is on the net and i use my computer to get this information, talk to my bros and see wassup.
GonzoBanker: So where do you get your ideas for your viruses, from 29A?
Z0mbie: actually most of my ideas come directly from microsoft. every time they announce a new security patch, it points out a hole someone found. a little research’ll give details on how to exploit the breach and i’m off like a bat outta hell.
GonzoBanker: But doesn’t everyone install the Microsoft patch and make your virus ineffective?
Z0mbie: are you kidding? i can write my virus a year after the patch was announced and still infect millions of computers. businesses are pretty fast to install the patches, but not many PCs are kept up to date and home is where the largest number of computers are.
GonzoBanker: So from your perspective, what makes a virus successful?
Z0mbie: well, first of all, it has to have really burly code that will reproduce itself. second, it has to spread way fast and infect the most computers in the world. finally, my virus has to be in the papers and the biggest high is to make cnn news and have them warn the world about my code. that is a real high when i get my virus on tv. when this happens, i made my mark in cyberspace, ooh, it feels so awesome. the bummer is that i can only tell my 29A friends about my virus since telling anyone else could end my fun.
GonzoBanker: So is it fair to say you are competing with your friends in the 29A club?
Z0mbie: you bet your pinstriped a__ it’s competition. to make sure my virus gets the most props, some of my code removes viruses coded by other writers. their code is so lame and easy to remove. i want my code to be the only one on your computer.
GonzoBanker: Do you make any money from writing viruses?
Z0mbie: not now, but that’s going to change. the club is teaming up with some advertising suits who want to send billions of messages to the masses. my next virus is going to put code on your computer and millions of others. the code will initially do nothing except wait for a command from me. the advertising geeks will give me a message they want sent by my virus. i’ll send the message along with a command to activate the virus and billions of emails will be sent to everyone in their outlook address books. naturally my virus will report to me how many were sent and my pay is based on the number of messages sent. this is real cool to the advertiser since i can send a few messages from millions of infected computers. i am expecting some righteous euros from the idea.
GonzoBanker: Do you ever consider the damage you are doing and how it impacts the millions of people whose computers your virus infects?
Z0mbie: well i’m not hurting an individual, i’m just using their computer to help spread my virus. if i hurt a big company, they can just write it off. besides if it hurts microsoft, they should be punished for producing such crappy code.
GonzoBanker: Just one more question, since you mentioned Microsoft. Why do you pick on them, why not Linux or Macintosh?
Z0mbie: you have NOT been reading my responses. we are trying to put our code on as many computers as fast as possible. linux and macintosh together are running on less than 8 percent of the computers in the world. if either one ever has more than 80 percent of the computers, i’ll write viruses to run on them. oops, gotta go, i think my mom’s coming.
GonzoBanker: Thanks Z0mbie, this has been very interesting.
Note: GonzoBanker freely admits the interview is fiction, but it is representative of the reality of the problem. All of the names, data, organizations and quotes are real.