Archive.org has gone to great lengths to preserve and host dated software, but up until last week, its vast collection of classic games and MS-DOS executables skewed toward the overly safe side. Sure, you could run the original Oregon Trail—even on your web browser, through a DOSBOX emulator—and burden virtual pioneers with dysentery, but what about acquiring an actual virus?
That changed on Friday with the site’s unveiling of the Malware Museum, a website collection of 78 viruses from the MS-DOS era of the late ’80s and early ’90s, all ready to either launch on a DOSBOX web browser emulator or be downloaded to your hard drive. Before you fret about some kind of crazy dated-virus outbreak, know that Archive.org went to the trouble of “defanging” every virus in its collection.
The “museum” began to take shape when longtime Finnish computer security expert Mikko Hypponen offered his personal collection of roughly 30 viruses, which he’d already disassembled to remove their drive-destructive capabilities, to Archive.org software curator Jason Scott. “He contacted me a week ago, out of the blue, asking if I wanted to do anything with this collection [of viruses],” Scott said in a phone interview with Ars. “I just put them all up and said, ‘Yes, I like it, and I already put them all up [on the site]!'”
Soon afterward, YouTube virus-analysis video host Daniel White heard about the collection and offered his own Pandora’s box of defanged MS-DOS viruses, which brought the collection of viruses up to its current count. Many of the viruses on show include colorful, ASCII-heavy imagery—effectively, the first wave of digital graffiti, often with a tilt towards both implied and overt love of drugs—while more damaging examples include viruses like Q-CASINO.COM, which would warn users that their file allocation table had been erased and backed up in RAM. Infected users then had the option of playing a game of chance; if they won, their FAT would be restored, but if they lost (or powered their PC off), they’d essentially lose all access to their files.
“Like the first act of Jurassic World“
Scott said he also has a collection of untouched, destructive MS-DOS viruses in his personal data stash, and he’s tempted to eventually post those files in a hard-to-access Archive.org vault. For now, he is inclined to stick to this curated selection of safer versions.
Scott said that one of his personal favorites is Ambulance, which he loves “because it has sound, which must have been surreal on top of having this ambulance go across your screen.” After you watch the viruses’ weird animations, messages, and visual effects play out, check out an attached, compelling video presentation from Hypponen during 2011’s Defcon 19 in which he describes many of the viruses’ place in viral history.
“The weirdest thing, I think, is a few people have complained that their favorite viruses aren’t in the collection right now,” Scott said. “‘Where’s my virus? I wanna see my virus!’ You know, we’ve seen it strike a nerve. I’m happy because this old software is important. it’s nice to have a show of relevance.”
SOURCE: Sam Machkovech| Ars Technica