Dark Avenger: The hacker everyone wants to meet

For more than 30 years, he was the most notorious virus creator and responsible for the evolution of antivirus programs.

In 2016, when Donald Trump was running for the nomination and working with the Russians to wage a hybrid war against Clinton, an unusual location was chosen for the purpose. Those executing the communications strategy had chosen the Balkans, specifically Bulgaria, to publish negative news about Hillary.

Bulgaria has been one of the favorite countries of digital viruses since the 1980s, because at that time it was one of the hottest high-tech zones on the planet!

dark avenger

Generations of Bulgarian computer technicians created electronic viruses and sent them to countries in Europe and the USA. But just as there was a generation that created viruses, there was also a generation that created antivirus programs.

During this time, there was a particular virus, the Vienna virus, which was legendary at the time. It was a highly publicized virus, violent and destructive, but with a crude code that could be easily intercepted.

For many, Vienna was the perfect virus to experiment with. Theodor Prevalsky was the one who made it happen. He was someone who had long been fascinated by artificial intelligence life and wanted to explore its potential.

After studying Vienna, Prevalsky decided to create his own virus that, instead of destroying files, commanded the speaker to make a certain noise whenever a file was attacked.

From then on, all the viruses he created were laboratory animals, specimens created for research purposes only. However, the virus easily got out of control and a variant of Vienna created by Prevalski ended up in the US.

Vienna shared the data, using DOS running on a Microsoft computer at Prevalsky, which at the time had no security system. It was a time when no one believed that data could be remotely intercepted. If they were locked, no one could take them.

But there was also the ability to share one's computer with someone, insert a floppy disk, go through the files and install them on that person's computer. And Prevalsky didn't have a proper "lock" on the virus folder he had created.

After Prevalski, several people read Computers for You magazine and learned how to write virus code through an article by one of the columnists.

Suddenly, Bulgaria was no longer a country. It was a digital virus industry. “They don't just make a lot of viruses, they make the best viruses. Morton Schwimmer once wrote in a New York Times article: “They don't make the best viruses.

The starting point of the Dark Avenger

The branch consisted of young Bulgarians – all men – and there was no malicious intent. They were just discovering the game and playing to occupy themselves. They lived in a poor country and were under the influence of the Soviet Union, which had just collapsed. To them it was a game and a display of their intelligence. It could be a way to develop social skills, like in school.

In the early days of the 1990s, two new viruses appeared every week. Thus the Computer Virus Research Organization (Caro) was created and some ethical rules for virus research were established. The main one was that no one should write a virus. The appearance of this organism caused a divide among antivirus researchers and the cyber security community. To belong to it, you had to be able to hack to prove that you could protect against hackers.

In this climate appeared the Dark Avenger, the most legendary producer of viruses in Bulgaria and the world. I created him to terrorize engineers and other buffoons," he told the Guardian.

The Dark Avenger virus was unlike any other. It wasn't a game. He was deadly. His name was Eddie. A name inspired by Iron Maiden and a declaration of his love for metal. Eddie didn't just attack disks, he invaded the computer's memory and took complete control of the running program. Then, when the user loaded another program, Eddie infected that program as well.

On the 16th run of the program, it also wrote a message to the disc's code and returned it to the computer: "Eddie is alive... Somewhere in time...". with the message: "Eddie is alive...". Another reference was made to Iron Maiden's sixth album. That's where the life of each program ended.

Eddie, NOMENKLATURA and the others

Eddie was a virus within a virus. Vienna, for example, destroyed one in eight files—Eddie infected asymptomatically and silently, forcing computer users to back up infected files.

The Dark Avenger didn't want to leave his creation an orphan once he saw what he had created. So he created new code with an ironic copyright notice: “This program was written in Sofia (C) 1988-89 Dark Avenger”.

Eddie was not the only child of this chimera. Dark Avenger continued to write more complex viruses and his infectivity reached military computers, banks, insurance companies and medical equipment. It was global in scale. According to John McAfee Anti-Virus Manager John McAfee, 10% of the 60 calls he receives a week are about viruses from Bulgaria, 99% of which come from Dark Avenger.

Worse than Eddie is Nomenclatura, which comes from a well-known word brought into the Greek lexicon by Stalinist communist theoreticians. The virus infected computers in the British Parliament library and could not be detected when virus detection experts were called. But they knew it was there. And in one of the files it suddenly became apparent.

They may have created a deadly virus, but at least the Dark Avenger had a sense of humor and, under the name Nomenklatura, poked fun at his compatriots who took their cue from the Soviet Union.

Nomenklatura did not infect files. It infected the entire file system, the so-called file allocation table, or FAT. With the FAT infected, DOS could no longer find the files it wanted to run.

Thus, when British expert Alan Solomon contacted a Bulgarian computer technician in the mid-1990s via the FidoNet networking system, he received the following response: “This fat idiot, instead of kissing a girl on the lips, kisses her elsewhere. That's all". In other words, the virus was not described as going to affect one file, but the entire system.

For these reasons, the Dark Avenger became legendary. Not just in the dark web and cyber security, but everywhere. Everywhere. Some developers even made him an idol, a god.

The woman who ripped him off

Anonymity and isolation are the hallmarks of hackers, but there are those who want to slip in and out of their hiding places. Just for a little.

Virus researcher Sarah Gordon speculated that in the Soviet Union and other countries of influence, men always had problems with power. When her own computer became infected, she had to find the edge and board the Dark Avenger. Since then, she has set out to neutralize him.

There is something different about The Dark Avenger. Everyone speaks to him differently. Fascinated by this, Sarah also contacted Phaidnet and asked to speak to him openly. But he did not comply. But there was no way he was going to stop. So she made a request to someone who could create the virus for her. And the Dark Avenger accepted the request. He named the virus “Dedicated”. He is like the Panos Tsiamos of the dark web.

This virus was stored by the Dark Avenger in another malicious code. It's like a virus within a virus. It is a capture virus and no anti-virus can stop it. Simply put, Gordon asked for a weapon and was given a nuclear weapon.

He was not satisfied. He wanted to talk to him. “You need to see a 'doctor'. If you're a woman, you don't sit around talking about viruses," he initially told her. Gordon didn't stop and sent him a message in Bulgarian, asking him to forward it to an American researcher he had been in contact with.

Over the next five months, the two exchanged messages. Gordon made some of them public. The Dark Avenger acted like a serial killer. He talked about the morality behind his actions and blamed his victims for provoking him.

Following are excerpts from their communication.

Sarah: A while ago, at FidoNet, when you were told that one of your viruses was responsible for many deaths, you responded with indifference. Let's assume this story is true. How would you feel if your virus was actually used to cause tragedy?

Dark Avenger: I'm sorry about that. I didn't want to cause a tragedy. I didn't expect this virus to affect anything other than computers. I used bad words because the people who wrote to me said bad things to me first.

A: So you didn't know that the virus could cause serious consequences? Don't computers in your country affect people's lives?

DA: No. At least not when I was making them. Computers were expensive toys, nobody could buy them and nobody knew how to use them.

Their communication ended when the Dark Avenger learned that Gordon was engaged and about to get married. After speaking ill of her, he cut off all contact.

The end of…

However, every story with a villain has a corresponding antagonist. The dark avenger opposes Veselin Bonchev, the developer of Computer for You. And while Bonchev was challenged, the Dark Avenger continued to create merciless viruses.

For Bonchev, the Dark Avenger was simply a villain. He neither rebelled nor acted. He just wanted to destroy him. To the Dark Avenger, Bonchev was a weasel. Bonchev's criticism of the quality of the Dark Avenger virus in his article seemed to annoy him, and the rivalry reached the level of personal hatred.

"That weasel can go to hell." His article was a clear challenge to the virus's creators, urging them to write more code. It was also an excellent guide on how to write for people who knew nothing,” claimed the Dark Avenger and tried to blame Bonchev as the perpetrator of the virus outbreak.

The Dark Avenger even changed Eddie's code furiously, adding a new sequence with the words “Copyright (C) 1989 by Vesselin Bontchev”. His goal was not to hold Bontchev responsible, but to attack Bontchev's anti-virus as well. As soon as the new variant, Eddie.2000, came into play, it looked for files with Bontchev's name on the computer and froze the anti-virus.

Batman and Joker were born in Bulgaria. After all, many supported the theory that the two were the same person.

And the Joker has always enjoyed having his deeds known far and wide. The Dark Avenger enjoyed watching his "child", the virus, attack Western programs. He liked to be feared.

“The idea of ​​creating a 'carousel', a program that would travel to places where its creators would never go, was very interesting to me. The US government can stop me from entering the US, but they can't stop my virus. …”

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Dark Avenger

Written by Anastasis Vasileiadis

Translations are like women. When they are beautiful they are not faithful and when they are faithful they are not beautiful.

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