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Viral Art: A Gallery Of Security Threats

Visually, online threats such as viruses, worms, and Trojans can be as beautiful as they are menacing to individual PC users, enterprises, and IT security professionals.




At its peak, MyDoom reached an infection rate of 1 in every 12 e-mails.
(click for image gallery)

With 94 % of IT professionals expecting to suffer a security breach, and Windows 7 already showing signs of vulnerability to hackers, it's fair to say we're under siege from attackers.

But what does the enemy look like? What color is spyware? What shape and form identify varying strains of malware, worms, and Trojans?

Artists Alex Dragulescu and Julian Hodgson accepted a commission from MessageLabs, now part of Symantec, and set to work to find out.

It turns out the look of online threats can be as beautiful as they are menacing to individual PC users, enterprises, and IT security professionals.

Using pieces of disassembled code, API calls, memory addresses, and subroutines associated with the bane of a security team's existence, they analyzed the data by frequency, density, and groupings. Algorithms were then developed and the artists mapped the data to the inputs of the algorithms, which then generated virtual 3-D entities.

The patterns and rhythms found in the data gave shape to the configuration of the artificial organisms, and the result was a series of images called Malwarez.

In addition to malware, worms, Trojans, the artists also analyzed and created renderings of e-mail spam, phishing attacks, keyloggers, and malicious e-card attacks.

Dragulescu's projects are experiments and explorations of algorithms, computational models, simulations, and information visualizations that involve data derived from databases, spam e-mails, malware, blogs, and video-game assets.

In 2005, his software Blogbot won the IBM New Media Award. Blogbot is a software agent in development that generates experimental graphic novels based on text harvested from blogs. Since 2007, Dragulescu has worked as a researcher in the Social Media Group at the MIT Media Lab.


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