If you haven’t heard of this it’s not because it didn’t happen. It did. DVForge announced a Mac OS X Virus Writing Contest. The prize? $25,000 to the first hacker who could create a Mac virus to infect a couple of Macs running OS X.
As you’d suspect, the contest was suspect from the beginning and lasted so long that the start and stop headlines were on the same line.
Here’s the deal. There are no known “in the wild” viruses for Apple’s Mac OS X Panther operating system. There’s about 17,234,968 known viruses for Windows XP. Released daily.
So, the folks over at DVForge (they sell Mac stuff) decided they’d had enough to drink Friday, cashed in all their beer bottles, came up with $25,000, and an idea for a virus writing contest.
While I’m sure that’s exactly the scenario played over and over each day, hence the multitude of viruses for Windows, these folks wanted to challenge the hackers to write a virus for Mac OS X.
Any good venture, even those that last eight or 10 minutes, deserves a set of rules and the DVForge folks came up with a few.
First, the virus had to be “in the wild.” That means a hacker would need to create the virus, let it loose, and it would have to infect a couple of basic Macs (with OS X) they’d set up just to catch it.
Second, the virus writers would have to inform DVForge of the virus and give them a few lines of the virus code along with their name, address, phone number, etc.
Finally, once the virus struck the two Macs in question (not to mention the gazillion other Macs that would have to catch it first), they’d compare the code, and announce a winner. Or not.
That’s the short version. The prize was a whopping $25,000. That’s a lot of beer bottles.
The long version is more interesting and you can Click Here for all the details.
What’s the problem with this virus writing contest? Well, it lasted about as long as a doughnut in front of Anna Nicole Smith coming off a hunger strike.
Saturday, March 26 – 11:17 AM: $25,000 prize offered and contest rules announced.
Saturday, March 26 – 1:03 PM: $25,000 prize and contest rescinded.
What’s that? A long lunch? That’s a rather brief sobering up period. It took a long lunch to figure out that the Flying Circus of Lawsuits™ would no doubt chew up more than $25,000.
For both the virus writer and the folks at DVForge.
Why? Before said virus could infect the DVForge Macs it would need to infect other Macs first. Chances are good those Mac users wouldn’t be happy about it and would light torches, don farmer clothing, grab pitchforks and head to the DVForge castle—for something less than a confab.
Yes, thousands of Mac users would be pissed. On the other hand, lawyers and their spawn (other lawyers) would probably feast on the flesh of DVForge management’s rotting corpses (and other more valuable assets).
So, cooler heads prevailed, and DVForge yanked the contest faster than Mark McGuire dodged questions from government official about steroid use.
What’s the official word from DVForge? No, the word besides “Yikes. We could be sued?”
It’s this: “Liability Statement: We do not endorse the creation or distribution of computer viruses. U.S. and international law, as well as simple good judgment forbid the transmission of computer viruses.”
Jack Campbell, CEO of DVForge, put the whole thing to rest with this announcement:
“During the first several hours after making the public announcement, I was contacted by a large number of Mac users and Mac software professionals who shared their thinking with me about the contest.”
“A few of these people are extremely well-regarded experts in the field of Mac OS X security. So, I have taken their advice very seriously, and have made the difficult decision to cancel our contest. I have been convinced that the risk of a virus on the OS X platform is not zero, although it is remarkably close to zero.”
“More importantly, I have been convinced that there may be legality issues stemming from such a contest, beyond those determined by our own legal counsel, prior to announcing the contest.”
“So, despite my personal distaste for what some companies have done to take advantage of virus fears among the Mac community, and my own inclination to make a bold statement in response to those fears, I have no responsible choice but to retract the contest, effective immediately.”
What do you think about a prize to create a virus for Mac OS X? Apparently, more than a few folks “in the know” had something to say and cooler heads (sans heads of beer) prevailed.
For now, Mac OS X remains pretty secure, virusly speaking.
Still, $25,000 and 15-minutes of fame might attract an unscrupulous virus writer (is there another kind?) to venture out from under his or her rock. The 15-minutes of fame? That’s what happens before the 15 year jail term that would await said virus writer.
Can you imagine just how cute a translucent young script kiddy would appear to the hardened (literally) prison types? Click Here for all the details of DVForge’s two-hour contest.