Category Archives: Arts & Culture

The Malware Museum chronicles the history of computer viruses

Long before the Internet and portable hard drives, there were floppy disks. Square pieces of plastic that were a commonplace way to transport information from one user to another until about the mid 90s.

Along with useful data, the diskettes sometimes carried malware. These early viruses could cause bugs in your MS-DOS or encrypt all the information on your hard drive. But their primary purpose was disruption.

Computer security expert Mikko Hyppönen, who’s been studying viruses for over twenty years, says that early computer malware was a hobby, something young programmers did to show off to their friends and fellow coders in the community. Viruses made by certain programmers often contained recognizable signatures and incorporated bright colours, loud sounds and graphics into their bugs, because the creators wanted their work to be seen.

Hyppönen has collected many of these viruses over the years, and he recently partnered up with Jason Scott from The Internet Archive to display the most interesting specimen in The Malware Museum. You can run over 80 different viruses on a DOS simulator right inside your browser – and don’t worry, all the malicious parts of the code have been rendered harmless before being exhibited in the museum.

“You won’t be able to infect your computer with any of the malware in the museum, but you can actually see what they looked like,” Hyppönen told Spark. “For example, there is a famous virus that’s called the Ambulance Car virus, which was spreading around 1990. Whenever it would infect computers, it would stay quiet for a week and then suddenly you’d have this animation of a white, black and red ambulance car driving across your screen with the ambulance car sound playing in the background.”

As soon as money entered the picture, the art of programming viruses changed. It was no longer about showing off or seeing how far one viral piece of code would spread. Instead, it was about the enormous amounts of money that could be stolen.

As the danger malware presented to the infected computer systems increased, the viruses also became less visible, sneakier. In order to keep logging keystrokes or pilfering sensitive data, the malware had to go unnoticed as long as possible. So everything that defined the viruses at the Malware Museum –the noises, the colours, the inside jokes– became obsolete.

But Hyppönen believes it’s important for netizens to be familiar with viruses of the past: not just to reminisce about the lost art of virus programming, but also to learn about the evolution of our own interaction with data.

“I probably wasn’t really appreciating them when I was analyzing these things twenty five years ago, but they are some kind of an art,” Hyppönen explained. “They are visually interesting, and it’s a very interesting look back at the early days of a problem that we still fighting today.”

A version of this article appeared on CBC’s Spark in March 2016.

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Spaces and Reservations

(Courtesy Brendan Prost)

(Courtesy Brendan Prost)

VANCOUVER (LINK MAGAZINE) – Vancouver has been fighting to keep its Hollywood North title, with tax credit cuts and special effects studio closures contributing to the anxieties in the local filmmaking community. Such droughts in the industry normally correspond to a drop in newcomers interested in learning the craft. However, for those who are making their debut in the Vancouver film arts, the situation may not look as bleak.

The Lower Mainland houses many established film schools, with Langara, Simon Fraser and Emily Carr offering competitive training programs. One student filmmaker has shared the experience of making a feature film without the budget or the manpower of Hollywood giants.

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Burnaby Art Gallery adds a touch of art to every day routine

Haydn Thomas' artwork is partly inspired by patterns he was surrounded by in his childhood. (Courtesy Harry Booth)

Haydn Thomas’ artwork is partly inspired by patterns he was surrounded by in his childhood. (Courtesy Harry Booth)

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of every day life,” Pablo Picasso once said.

Residents of the Lower Mainland are surrounded by local art in their daily routines: on SkyTrain platforms, downtown street corners, and on the walls of numerous coffee shops.

Burnaby Art Gallery found a new way to share art in its community. The gallery has made it a tradition to display art in public libraries, adding a touch of aesthetic beauty to a place of knowledge.

Three offsite exhibitions have been launched at the Burnaby libraries in November: The Natural Numeral at McGill; Rare Books at Tommy Douglas; and ESC CTRL at the Bob Prittie library. While the first two exhibitions draw from the gallery’s permanent collections, ESC CTRL displays some of the works of the local artist Haydn Thomas for the first time.

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Watermark takes a novel perspective on Earth’s most precious resource

Watermark tells the story of human interaction with water in over 20 countries. (Courtesy Mongrel Media)

Watermark tells the story of human interaction with water in over 20 countries. (Courtesy Mongrel Media)

VANCOUVER (THE LINK) –  “We are water.”

If there was a concise way to summarize Watermark, this quote from Oscar Dennis comes pretty close. Words do a poor job of describing a film of such overwhelming visual beauty, but the Tahltan linguist captured the simple and yet loudest message of the film.

Watermark is the second cinematic collaboration between Canadian director Jennifer Baichwal and photographer Edward Burtynsky. In its ninety-minute run, Watermark takes the viewers on an aquatic journey from the Colorado River Delta, to a dam in China, and back home – floating down Stikine River in British Columbia.

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