The plain black Samsung laptop computer, laced with six powerful viruses, represents one of the world’s most terrifying threats to Chinese artist Guo O Dong.
On Tuesday, his work “The Persistence of Chaos” stunned the art world when it sold for more than $1.3 million at an online auction in New York.
However, the computing world’s counterparts of the world’s most fatal contagious diseases are stored onto its memory chips: “I LOVE YOU” from 2000, “Sobig” from 2003, “MyDoom” (2004), “DarkTequila” (2013), “BlackEnergy” (2015), and, most infamously, the “WannaCry” ransomware from two years ago.
It’s a powerful symbol of the global threat that a single laptop may pose. According to Guo, the six trojans, worms, and viruses put on it have caused at least $95 billion in worldwide damage.
Guo is an internet artist “whose work challenges contemporary day very online culture,” according to Deep Instinct, a cybersecurity firm that handled the auction.
The computer, viewed via an online video stream, is harmless in its auction state — turned on, but not connected to any network or the internet.
The auction site says it is “airgapped” — its wireless and internet connections physically and electronically plugged.
But it comes with ominous warning to the buyer not to unleash its pathogenic programs — possible by unplugging its connection hardware, or by simply inserting a thumb drive.
At the same time, the site appeared to acknowledge that the buyer might not heed the agreement.
“Please remember that these are live and dangerous malware samples,” it said.
“Running them unconstrained means that you will infect yourself or others with vicious and dangerous malware.”
The buyer was not identified.