An Illustrated Guide to Computer Viruses

Discovering a virus on your computer is everyone’s worst nightmare. Despite all the antivirus software we may install, new viruses are constantly emerging, and these corrupting programs continue to target our devices. A fascination with these saboteurs, however, has inspired Amsterdam-based artist Bas van de Poel to dig into their histories, and furthermore, invite 23 artists around the world to create unique visual interpretations of a variety of viruses. The product is The Computer Virus Catalog, “an illustrated guide to the worst viruses in computer history.”

“I’ve always been intrigued by the dark side of computing,” van de Poel told the WILD. “I knew I wanted to do something with computer viruses as soon as I found out that the destructive Melissa virus is named after the author’s favorite exotic dancer.”

saiman-chow---melissa_905Melissa by Saiman Chow

The Melissa virus is named after the author’s favorite exotic dancer. The macro worm infects Word documents and spreads via email and newsgroups. Melissa was first distributed in the Usenet group, hiding in a document containing passwords of 80 porn sites_

From viruses that mess with your emails like Sircam or ILOVEYOU to ones that put on a visual show after infecting data like Happy99 or LSD, the catalog reveals some pretty fascinating stories of malware. The accompanying illustrations are equally alluring, with the artists drawing unexpected beauty from these destructive programs.

Check out some of our favorites below, and visit The Computer Virus Catalog for more.


Implant by Karborn

DOS virus Implant displays a high res photo of a blonde bombshell wearing nothing but lingerie. The quality of the image is remarkable since DOS runs video in text mode. After rebooting your computer you will notice the babe erased your entire hard drive_


LSD by Clay Hickson

The LSD virus is far out… This DOS virus overwrites all the files in the current directory and then displays a druggy video effect. Next it shows a message from your local dealer: ‘LSD ViRuS 1.0 Coded By Death Dealer 4/29/94 [TeMpEsT -94]’_


Madman by Jay Wright

Madman is a DOS virus infecting .EXE files. Whenever you hit CTRL-ALT-DEL the virus displays an ASCII picture of an angry red-faced amigo. Hit your keyboard again and the virus displays the creepy message: ‘Nothing can save you here, friend – you’re in my world now!’_


Crash by Andreu Serra

Crash is a DOS virus infecting .COM and .EXE files. On activation, Crash freezes the screen and runs an endless loop of rubbish characters containing all the secrets of the Universe_


Nople by Merijn Hos

Nople is a Windows NT worm virus that spreads over local networks and shared network drives. On activation the worm runs an animation of furry colored graphics and displays the text: ‘¡Es hora de formatear tu disco!’, which translates to ‘It is the hour to format your disc!’_


Cookie Monster by Lawrence Slater

Created in the late ’60s, Cookie Monster is the world’s first computer virus. After infection, Cookie Monster freezes all system activity and demands cookies. Don’t sweat it. You simply unlock your computer again by typing the word ‘cookie’_

Illustrations reproduced with permission of van de Poel.

text by: Claire Voon

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