Romanian artist Alex Dragulescu's visual representation of the 'Russian3' computer virus.
Romanian artist Alex Dragulescu's visual representation of of the 'Netsky' e-mail worm.
Cyber threats like NetSky, Mydoom and Parite are the bane of IT departments around the globe, but artist Alex Dragulescu has found subtle beauty deep within the dangerous computer code that can bring down networks and bombard e-mail inboxes with murderous spam.
Dragulescu has peeled back the code behind the world's worst tech bugs and rendered stunning images from it.
The Romanian-born MIT researcher and artist was commissioned to do fashion the artwork by MessageLabs, a computer security company that sought to put a face — or at least a shape — on computer viruses.
Dragulescu found interesting, recurring patterns. He used the data to coax pointy green tentacles from the dreaded "Mydoom" e-mail worm and grew pretty peach petals from the epicenter of the "Degreediploma5" spam file.
"I think there is beauty in their complexity," Dragulescu said at a gallery debut of his work in San Francisco. "These types of threats are very smart. Very intelligent in design. Digital organisms, really, that adapt themselves and replicate. We wanted to capture some of that complexity and uniqueness."
The process of creating the art was like none other. MessageLabs carefully sent Dragulescu the once-harmful files after modifying them so his computers would not contract the viruses.
Dragulescu looked for the frequency of certain occurrences in a virus, such as particular network sockets that it was designed to compromise. He fed the resulting data into a program he created with an algorithm to grow the viruses and Trojans visually.
"The number of occurrences would determine how branching develops. Another example would be how curly the tentacles get," Dragulescu said.
Dragulescu's next project will be creating abstract portraits of people based on the contents of their blogs and the types of online communities they inhabit.