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Back to the Future: What viruswriters in the past thought about the viruses of the future

Valhalla #3
December 2012

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Recently I've watched "Back To The Future II", a movie from 1989 where the actors go to the future of 2015, and see flying cars everywhere, kids going by hover-boards, 3d holographic billboards, and much more.

Well - I dont see those things yet :-) But it gave me an idea: Check out old interviews by VXers of the past, and look what they thought about the future of computer-viruses.

I found some very nice ideas - several of them are "not even close", others were excellent predictions. The interviews I found in VDAT, VX Heavens's library, and in several e-zines (thx to Cicatrix, herm1t and all authors :) ). The quotes are sorted chronologically, and in the end of the text I give a small prediciton myself - we'll see if it's good or not even close ;)

Now: It's December 2012 - let's get back to the future!

1. Urnst Kouch (Editor of Crypt Newsletter), Summer 1993, in Gray Areas #3

Do you know/heard of any new virus-writing technics coming in the near future?

Yes, I suspect there will be a continued fascination with cramming advanced stealth, tunneling, and multi-partitism into one virus, along with active and passive anti-anti-virus code. All this will succeed in doing is guaranteeing the viruses won't do very well off the drawing board, simply because they're overly complex, and complexity breeds unpredictable bugginess.

What do you think the future is for writing viruses for WIN and OS/2?

If and when it happens in a significant manner, it won't be done by the virus programmers we see now. They just have shown no real interest in the effort it would take to write successful replicating code for these operating systems. Conceptually, we should be seeing more imaginative applications of the term 'virus'. This hasn't happened; there's been nothing really unique for at least a year.

2. Qark/VLAD, December 1995, by The Unforgiven in Insane Reality issue #7

How do you think the viruswriting future looks for Win95 and DOS?

The DOS future is as bright as ever, but Win95 waits to be conquered...

Do you know/heard of any new technics coming in the near future?

Win 95 ? And a polymorphic engine with layers and layers of encryption.

3. John Tardy/Trident, December 1995, by The Unforgiven in Insane Reality issue #7

Do you know/heard of any new technics coming in the near future?

Yes. I think the new breed of viruses will analyse any type of code run and tries to insert it somewhere in there. With protected mode programming it's possible to stay away from any scanner and control everything. As a result, such virus could infect a .MOD file somewhere halfway if it's contains executable code which is run. Also own compression mechanisms are nice (take Cruncher for an example, but it utilized the Diet algorithm).

4. Potti Rotti/Trident, December 1995, by The Unforgiven in Insane Reality issue #7

Do you know/heard of any new technics coming in the near future?

Not really. But viruses written in protected mode could be quite a cool thing to do, I think this will be done shortly. If we look at the future in a wider perspective I think self-learning viruses is the next logical step. This is fully doable with today's knowledge about A.I. Else, I think viruswriter will aim for other and newer operating-system with the same techniques as we see today (stealth/polymorphism, etc. etc. ).

5. Crom-Cruach/Trident, 1995 (?), by The Unforgiven in Insane Reality issue (?)

Do you know/heard of any new technics coming in the near future?

I'm pretty sure the PowerPC will give virus authors a wide scala of new possibilities...

6. b0z0/iKX, December 1996, by MrSandman in 29A#1

How will the 'viruses of the future' look in your opinion?

i think that the 'viruses of the future' will have support for spreading over a network. there are plenty of this possibilities under win*.* that can be implemented, and they *will* be implemented :)

7. MrSandman/29A, April 1997, by b0z0 in iKX Xine #2

What do you think about the future of viriis?

Since Bill Gates is the wealthiest man in the earth right now, we must assume that Windows (and i don't mean Windows95 or NT) is the future. Heh, anybody could make all the people think that a crock of shit is good, and even eat it... if he has the money Bill Gates does :)

Operating systems such as Linux, OS/2 and Mac OS are very good, but they will die soon as the number of dickheads increases every day. Of course, Windows95 won't be the definitive operating system... anyway, i think that it's a positive thing to spend our time trying to find out more stuff about PE infection under Windows95, as things won't change radically in a LOT of time.

And maybe part of the future of viruses is related with the your next question... Java and/or Internet.

8. Sepultura/Insane Reality, April 1997, in *-Zine #1

Perspectives of polymorphism

Traditional polymorphism (with a static virus wrapped in a highly variable decryptor) is a dying concept in my opinion. With the advent of generic decryption, polymorphism is not really much of a threat to the scanners any more.

I think the future lies in the 'metamorphic' viruses. These are viruses that are not encrypted, but the code of the virus itself changes. These include viruses such as PLY, Win.Apparition, TMC, and Swap. If we imagine metamorphism in the future reaching a stage where the only thing two copies of the 'same' virus have in common is the algorithm (or what actually they do). This can pose some interesting problems. Lots of 'different' viruses use exaclty the same algorithm, so if a virus that modifies its code comes out is it just creating a new copy of the same virus, or a new virus? And really, detecting a virus just by looking for code to perform a certain algorithm, is what is used for heuristic scanning today, so when detecting a truly metamorphic virus, you are likely to detect a lot of completely unrelated viruses - how can you identify such a virus?

9. Cicatrix (creator of VDAT), December 1997, by Horny Toad

What do you see in the future for virus writers?

As long as there are computers there will be computer viruses, as long as there are viruses there will be virus authors. It might get more difficult in the future to write a 'successful' virus but it has been proven several times already that there are a lot of smart, innovative people that want to write viruses.

10. Qark/VLAD, February 1998, MrSandman

How will the 'viruses of the future' look in your opinion?

It will be a resident win95/NT infector.

11. RaiD/SLAM, March 1998, by Opic in codebreakers#3

What do you think the future of virus writing is? Are we at the tip of the iceberg or nearing end of the road?

As long as an OS is popular, and is used, and theres an interest, they'll be a virus for it. I consider virus coding a challenge. :-)

12. OWL[FS], May 1998, in iKX Xine #3

But what do you see in the future of polymorphism? What are your views on polymorphic implementation and theory (talk to us about RHM polymorphism)?

I think polymorphism is still important even with the advancement of metamorphism already upon us. Metamorphism is nice, a decent engine can produce a nearly infinite number of virus variations, but if you are not carefull, instruction expansion will be what an AV looks for as it scans for your engine. Besides metamorphism takes a long time to master, and a decent emulation system will slice through it just like a standard unencrypted virus.

RHM Evolving Polymorphism was to slow polymorphism as that was to standard polymorphism. The thing is, that under any close scrutiny, any form of slow polymorphic engine is just as easily detected by an AV as any other of equal complexity. They both work the same way, it just means an AV has to make sure they disassemble each polymorphic engine to detect every possible output.

RHM is not limited to polymorphic engines however, it was just a simple way of showing how a computer virus can have something similar to genes and how it can combine them with genes from another virus. The real test of RHM will be not in hiding viruses from AV, but rather, from hiding the virus from the user of infected systems, by altering virus functions to those that fit in with the user's habits.

13. Q The Misanthrope/VLAD, July 1998, by Nucleii

Where do you think the technical aspects of virus code, the AV, and the future of viruses in general are headed?

Mr. Bill just announced what Microsoft's Email would be like in the future. Can we say "Good-Times" is for real. What kind of butt-head would allow you to open an Email message and have it automatically launch a Visual Basic script. Mr. Bill is evil (this is not necessarily a bad thing) and is on our (the VX) side. Sun developed JAVA to make it incapable of spreading a virus. Mr. Bill developed Word with Macro's that make it easy to create viruses. The VX scene will find all the holes Mr. Bill has created and exploit them to the extreme.

14. Yosha, late 1998, by Feathered Serpents

What you think lies in the future of virus coding?

I think polymorphism will become the most important part of a good virus, that is, if it's not already. Eventually, engines will be so complex and variable, that 100% detection will simply not be possible.

15. JMRK, late 1998, Feathered Serpents

What you think lies in the future of virus coding?

Crazy polymorphism, complex retro code that can magically have it's way with any AV, and multi platform viruses that transmit themselves over the Internet.

16. Pockets, late 1998, Feathered Serpents

What you think lies in the future of virus coding?

Disaster and plague, as new proprietary "technologies" are released, and more platforms become "compatible" with each other [ie: what Linux and Java are doing now].

17. LovinGOD, March 1999, by SeptiC in Technological Illusions Magzine #1

How will the future OS/computer viruses look like?

Internet worms with artificial intellect, they will have more power, coz computers will control everything in real life.

Will computer viruses be used as "weapons" in the future?

I am using this information weapons now. Of course, future technologies will allow viruses to influent on real life.

18. Int13h/iKX, May 1999, by Billy Belcebu/DDT in DDT#1

What is your viewpoint about a "perfect" virus? Could it be made? Do you think that the Artificial Intelligence will be implemented in a virus in the future?

To talk about a perfect virus is almost as utopic as talk about a perfect woman, without faults. It's a pure enthelequia. A virus could work very vell during a certain period of time, but after will come any software that will make crash, any new operative system, any new driver, etc., there is always something that breaks the perfection About applying artificial intelligence, who knows. Time will come fast and will show us the replies.

19. Wintermute, May 1999, by Billy Belcebu/DDT in DDT#1

Well, as we wanna follow the normal steps of an interview... another classical question :) What do you think about a perfect virus? And how do you think that the viruses in the future will be?

Personally, I think there's been so much years of developing artificial life. I've also became bored of the same stuff always... the perfect virus shouldn't be artificial life, but artificial intelligence, that's the way to go. Anyway I'm not that optimist... the future in viruses depends on how much people can continue with the new systems with DOS nearly finished; maybe much VXers go to HLLs, or worst, to macro shiiiit.

20. Foxz/NMVT (No Mercy Virus Team), May 1999, Serialkiller in codebreakers#5

Which viruses did you think are the next viruses in the future ?

i think ASM will never die, but mmmmm now someone was bring new type of virus, HTML virus!. may be this type is gonna take the place

21. Nightmare Joker, May 1999, by Serialkiller in codebreakers#5

How your opinion like do the viruses look the future?

Probably all will try now on the VBScript or Java course will jump up, but as soon as the Browser gets protective functions, the fun will fast past be. The only sort of viruses, to which I would predict " for a long time " a future am the Win32.HLL viruses generally. To coden easily and to adapt also just as easily again new conditions. All Win95/98/NT ASM viruses is naturally still better, to coden but but very with difficulty. Naja, we will see, what brings us the future.

22. Evil-E, May 1999, by Assembler Head in codebreakers#5

Give a little picture about Vx in future?

I see a good, very infective, future on the new platforms... What do you want to infect today :-)

23. Ruzz, January 2000, by EXE-Gency

What do you think the future of virus writing holds?

Virus writing will go on for as long as there are computers and people to depend on them. The future will consist of viral codes that are totally internet aware and use AI to survive.

24. Bhunji, January 2000, by EXE-Gency

What do you think the future of virus writing holds?

If i knew that i wouldnt be here, i would be threatening the AV's showing some kewl undetectable techniques :). Na, i think viruses will continue as slow as it does now as there is so few good coders making virii. Maybe some more internet stuff, maybe someone realices what i have realiced about the PE format and makes a very hard to find virus, maybe all coders stop coding and opens up a pr0n palace, i have heard some rumors from Spyda about that.

25. doxtorL, August 2000, by Del_Armg0 in MATRiX#2

What do you think the future of virus writing holds ?

At the beginning of virus computers, if you knew how to infect a com executable you was considered to be an elite coder. Nowdays, write viruses to infect Windows executable is not so easy. i suppose in the future things will be even harder to write viruses; the minimum knowledge to write viruses will be hard to master. I think macro viruses will disappear... i don't mean macro langages will disappear too ,but according me, Microsoft can easily stop macro viruses to be a threat. But is Microsoft want really to stop the spreading of macro viruses?

26. Walrus, August 2000, by Slagehammer

Do you have any new ideas for viruses you want to write in the near future?

Id like to create a mailing virus. Not a mass mailing one like melissa but one that attaches itself to mails as you send them. Therefore not creating mail traffic. Also id like to venture into html virus coding and in the future win32 asm.

27. CYPH3R, April 2001, by Del_Armg0 in MATRiX#3

What do you think the future of virus writing holds ?

as the electronic world advances more there will be more to infect, New platforms new programs, it will never end. i feel there is alot of new fun stuff coming up in the future, it will be great :D

28. YELLO, April 2001, by Del_Armg0 in MATRiX#3

What do you think the future of virus writing holds ?

I think that Hybris is the start of what?s to come. Antivx use the Internet to update ... Why cant Virii?

29. The Mental Driller/29A, March 2002 by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #1

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

I think the threat is going to remain, mostly the threat represented by the script-kiddies and their inmaturity, since the ones like us that code viruses as proofs of concept or the like aren't a real threat (answering to the ever-in-the-air question that many people have in mind).

From my point of view, the worms are the kind of self-replicating programs that will be predominant in the future, as we have them in the present, due to the massive growth of Internet and e-mail communication last years. This is also contributed by tremendous security flaws in Micro$oft apps. We'll see more and more worms that use exploits of known OSes to allow them to continue replicating.

In a far future, maybe we'll see the first intelligent virus, designed with neural nets and capable of searching exploits or new ways of infection by its own, but for that we need an outstandingly process power, so we won't see this very soon. I hope I'll be there to make something like that :).

30. philet0ast3r/rRlf, March 2002, by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #1

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

Everthing improves. And the more it improves, the more difficult it gets. I think future virus scene will concentrate on a few persons or groups, inventing new things, and forcing AV to also invent something against it. It's a circle of death. If the perfect virus can't be found, the true virus scene will die some day, because old coders get too old, and things will be too complicated for most newbies to learn.

31. Benny/29A, March 2002, by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #1

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

Well, new viruses and worms will be much more "inteligent", more than they are now.

32. alcopaul/rRlf, March 2002, by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #1

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

virus of the future? simple.. an undetectable one... :) worm? a melissa-like sms worm...

33. ZeMacroKiller98, March 2002, by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #1

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

I will see the next generation of virii contains all technics that exist and add new technics find by new author

34. Lord YuP (later dis69/29A), May 2002, by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #2

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

A.I + meta + bug finding (sploiting) + plugins + stealth = PERFECT VIRUS ;]

35. mandragore (ex-29A), May 2002, by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #2

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

it's pretty sad.. but that's what old vxers thought in their time i guess ) newcomers tend to choose the facility and are not willin to pay the efforts to learn so we'll see lotta teenagers with scriptin skillz (ironical) try to infect as many computer as possible at any cost for some cheap glory, without anything new nor interesting, even for 'em. i don't know for 'professional' vxin since i never came across some. but it could grow.

36. BlackArt, May 2002, by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #2

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

hmm.. I hope that metamorhpic virus increase.

37. Lord Julus (ex-29A), June 2002, by PetiK in PetiKVX Ezine #2

How do you see the virus and the worm in the future ?

I see a period of decline for Windows viruses with the implementation of the Win64 platform and the new PE file. I see an increase in worms as much more is doable thru scripting. In the further future I see a new wave of strong viruses once people get used to the Win64 platform and again a decrease in script worms...

38. roy g biv, July 2007, by izee in EOF/DR/RRLF (EOF#2)

Which methods of infection do you prefer and which techniques do you like more? How you think, what we can expect in the future?

I like file infection that uses special methods, like insertion or multiple cavities. Perhaps all of the infection methods have been found by now. What remains are new ways to get control or new ways to decrypt the code.

39. herm1t, November 2007, by izee in EOF/DR/RRLF (EOF#2)

Which methods of infections do you prefer, and which techniques do you like more? How you think, what we can expect in the future?

Complex enough to heat the imagination, but simple enough to be able to handle them. :-) For me, now, it is automatic code dissection and transformation. There are many interesting topics there. I'm not good with predictions, I don't even try to keep a close watch on the trends in the field (and those who tried often failed), but I think, that as an implication from the fact that virus could be written for nearly every universal computing system, and widespreading of different "smart" devices, we'll seen more and more creatures filling the gaps on the platforms there they were never seen before. As more and more techniques will be available, we'll see a cross breeding of them, a hodge podge liveware which is a bit of everything. And I want to belive and I hope that it is possible to create a program that can change not only a form, but its functionality, something that might be called polyessentialism (vs polymorphism).

40. hh86, December 2010, by SPTH in DarkCodez #3

What do you think will be the future of viruses? what will be the malware "of tomorrow"? Some artificial intelligent coffee-machine infector? :)

Probably. :) But the most complex thing these days seem to be infectors like Stuxnet. Now that malware officially reached the stage where it can be used for sabotage on such a powerful thing like a nuclear plant and people is not safe anymore of this kind of attacks, we can expect more serious attacks from unscropulous organisations of malware writers. They should get their asses turned into communitary sex centers for black people hungry of very nerdy white guys in jail.

41. pr0mix/EOF, March 2012, SPTH in valhalla#2

Now let's look into the future: How will be the virus situation in 2015 - 3 years from now? What what will be your long term prognosis, lets say for 2020 and for 2050? Be creative! :)

Pull out your crystal ball =) Future of the 1-st day: x64-technology, advanced technics of disembodied files and rootkit-technology, the spread of viruses to new platforms / devices, advanced integration of a virus with executable files etc;

Future of the 2-nd day: algorithmic mutation, the use of powerful virtualization technology in viruses, the use of viruses in the new format (going beyond the PC) etc;

Future of the 3-rd day: neural networks, AI, the integration of virus-technologies into gene engineering etc;

hehe :p

42. WarGame/EOF, March 2012, SPTH in valhalla#2

Let's look into the future: How will be the virus situation in 2015 (3 years from now)? And what will be your long term prognosis for 2020 and 2050 (be creative!) :D

We will see more mobile malwares (android and IOS) in 2015 because mobile computing is becoming very widespreaded. I do not have long term prognosis, I just hope being alive ;D

43. Peter Ferrie/Microsoft, March 2012, hh86 and SPTH in valhalla#2

Look into the future: what do you expect in near 3 to 5 years, and far beyond, maybe in 10 years, to happen with viruses and how will AVs continue to work.

The future is now. I expect to see more of the same, or perhaps I should say *more* of the same. Much more. Malware on other platforms like phones and other hand-held devices will be quite common. Running AV on those devices will be quite hard. sigh.

44. SPTH, December 2012, in valhalla#3

Future of viruses?

Soon I guess there will be very complex metamorphic viruses - far more advanced that whatever we have seen before. The reason is that the theory of such self-mutating engines have been developed last few years very well. Scientific researchers finally work on this topic as well, and producing incredible results (mathematical proofs of undetectable viruses, implementations based on formal languages and grammar, ...). Also experienced VXers such as herm1t show (even more practical and potential more successful) ways to implement game-changer based on self-compiling high-level-languages (see valhalla#2 for instance). I expect those things being developed withing 3-5 years. Expectation: < 2017

Many predictions above were about self-learning codes (A.I. was mentioned several times). Actually I am surprised that there has not been too much progress on that field. Not even in theory as far as I understand (just talking about self-replicators. The topic of artificial learning is very advanced). Maybe its just the question of combining those two fields - that means some theory about fitness-functions should be created that can be applied to self-replicators. This requires good understanding of the known results in A.I. - but I'm sure there are some clever people with interest in self-replication out there that are not affraid of looking into new fields such as machine learning (or vice versa). I want to see that! I REALLY WANT TO!!! Expectation: < 2020 (first clever scaleable steps)

Another thing that I would love to see are autonomous collectives of viral units in big networks, such as swarms of birds or fishes. Maybe even such as ants or bees. The idea is that such collectives can share information, distribute dangerous code - if some of the units disappear, it does not matter to the swarm. Todays bot-nets are somehow in that direction - however, this swarm would not listen to human instructions anymore. It would instruct itself. Really scary to think about :) Expectation: < 2025

Whatever happens, future will be bright and exciting :)

Second Part To Hell
December 2012
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