What happens when the vastly different worlds of modern art and computer malware collide? The answer is an installation called The Persistence of Chaos, and it just sold at auction for US$1.345 million.

The Persistence of Chaos is a work by Chinese digital artist Guo O Dong that is literally a 2008 Samsung NC10-14GB 10.2-Inch Blue Netbook, infected with six of the most damaging pieces of malware the world has ever seen, sitting on a plinth.

Cybersecurity firm Deep Instinct worked with Dong, supplying the malware and helping modify the laptop to keep it isolated from the internet. The laptop reportedly is air gapped and the files on it are encrypted, although it is noted that instructions to unencrypt the data will be passed on to the winner of the auction.

It's unclear exactly how legal the auction actually is considering the sale of malware is illegal. The project comes with expansive terms and conditions pointing out the infected computer is labeled a "Work of Art," and the sale is solely for "artistic use and academic study."

The six viruses infecting the old laptop include WannaCry – the infamous ransomware infection that hit hundreds of thousands of computers in 2017; Mydoom – an email worm from 2004 generally considered to be one of the fastest spreading computer viruses in history; and Sobig – a worm from 2003 that reportedly caused over $37 billion dollars in damage. ILOVEYOU, DarkTequila, and BlackEnergy round out the six.

In a statement to Vice, Dong suggests one of the motivations behind the project was to bring the abstract nature of these historical threats to life by presenting them in action on a laptop. For the time being the laptop is still being displayed via a Twitch livestream.

"These pieces of software seem so abstract, almost fake with their funny, spooky names, but I think they emphasize that the web and IRL are not different spaces," says Dong. "Malware is one of the most tangible ways that the internet can jump out of your monitor and bite you."

After a multi-day online auction, The Persistence of Chaos ultimately sold for $1,345,000.

View gallery - 4 images