VirusZoo aims for safe infections

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Computer users who have never had the misfortune to infect their system with malicious software can now see screenshots of a real-time virus infections, thanks to the efforts of a team of Web designers.

The cloud service, dubbed VirusZoo, allows registered users to select a real malicious program, infect a virtual system, and get screenshots of the result, according to SkyRiser Media, the group behind the effort. The programmers use a virtual machine running on the Mac OS X Snow Leopard operating system to host an instance of the Windows operating system. Using viruses culled from BitTorrent, the group allows users to select a piece of malicious code and run the program.

"Don't worry, there is no risk of infecting your own computer on this site," said Chris Comeau, one of the site's creators.

Comeau is not a security practitioner, but works as a game programmer and Web developer. he said. He came up with the idea to create the site a few months ago. The site is currently in beta and runs on a separate machine than the virtual system that users compromise.

While the Web site does not teach users how to protect their systems, it seems to be configured safely, says Vincent Weafer, vice president of security firm Symantec, which owns SecurityFocus.

"It is kind of a neat little feature idea," Weafer said. "It is a cool way to show people what an infection looks like."



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