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GoodTimes: Not Just a Hoax Anymore

By mdxi in Internet
Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 03:13:32 PM EST
Tags: Humour (all tags)

Long ago, back in the misty reaches of time, certainly before anyone alive today can remember (1996 to be precise), there was a rash of viruses the likes of which the world had never seen. They could erase your hard drive, make your monitor explode, and worse!

Except that these viruses didn't exist. They were email hoaxes, started by pranksters feeding on the inexperience and gullibility of the emerging class of internet newbies. The only thing they did was clog mailboxes and annoy the clueful. In December of 1996, someone wrote a spoof of the mail used by one of the mose famous of these hoaxes, known as GoodTimes. The spoof was ridiculously over-the-top and hilarious to anyone with an understanding of networks and what viruses can and cannot do.

The thing is...it isn't so funny anymore. Today I take a look at the feasibility of implementing the virus described by the GoodTimes spoof.

What follows is text from the GoodTimes spoof email, with my commentary on how to implement each "feature" listed. For those of you who weren't around in late 1996, you can see what all the fuss was about here, at CIAC's great HoaxBusters site.


Article proper begins:
Goodtimes will re-write your hard drive. Not only that, but it will scramble any disks that are even close to your computer.
When this spoof was written, it was unthinkable that a virus could even be transmitted by email. Email was plaintext, and surely no one would ever write a mail client stupid enough to automatically uudecode and run attachments, would they?

Oh, how things change. To be honest, in this age of VBScript, ActiveX and Microsoft mail clients that happily execute anything you throw at them, I've always wondered why someone hasn't already written a virus that wipes the hard drive after propagating itself a bit. The bit about scrambling disks near the computer is still laughable though. Who uses floppies these days?

It will recalibrate your refrigerator's coolness setting so all your ice cream goes melty.
Laugh it up while you can, boys. Just wait until Jini (or some equivalent) makes it such that every device in your house is net-addressible. Scenarios like this are why I don't really see the benefit of buzzwords like "digital convergence".
It will demagnetize the strips on all your credit cards, screw up the tracking on your television and use subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD's you try to play.
Well, your credit cards are probably safe for right now (their magstrips, anyway).

Networked TVs, on the other hand, would be vulnerable to all sorts of mischief. I envision them falling into two types: Outer Limits tribute viruses which display things like "ALL YOUR HORIZONTAL ARE BELONG TO US" while screwing with the picture settings and a far less imaginative type which simply purchases every pr0n pay-per-view for the next 6 months for you. Isn't having all your personal and financial data stored on your PC (or maybe even on a centralized server) in a Microsoft-controlled format fun?

As for your CDs, there's no reason for a virus author to waste time figuring out how to damage them when Sony is already busy selling CDs that will damage your CD player.

It will give your ex-girlfriend your new phone number.
I'm sure this is dead simple. Just hook your garden-variety Outlook-addressbook-reading virus up to a SMS gateway.
It will mix Kool-aid into your fishtank. It will drink all your beer and leave its socks out on the coffee table when there's company coming over. It will put a dead kitten in the back pocket of your good suit pants and hide your car keys when you are late for work.
Heh...okay, these are still pretty funny.
Goodtimes will make you fall in love with a penguin.
No, Linux makes you do that.
It will give you nightmares about circus midgets. It will pour sugar in your gas tank and shave off both your eyebrows while dating your girlfriend behind your back and billing the dinner and hotel room to your Discover card.
You're probably still safe from midget-infested dreams and software pouring sugar in your gas tank...and the eyebrow thing. And while a virus itself can't date your girlfriend and charge the expenses incurred to you, the virus author could get enough info from your machine to let him have a go at it. Hell, given the current wave of viruses, people you don't even know can collect tons of blackmail fodder on you.
It will seduce your grandmother. It does not matter if she is dead, such is the power of Goodtimes, it reaches out beyond the grave to sully those things we hold most dear.
It moves your car randomly around parking lots so you can't find it.
I wouldn't rule this one out. They're already testing smart highways in places and most car companies have pretty much the same attitude towards things like "quality", "safety" and "fixing problems in a timely manner" that Microsoft does. I wouldn't be suprised if MS isn't already "partnering" with at least one automobile maker. Fear.
It will kick your dog.
Fido is safe. . .FOR NOW.
It will leave libidinous messages on your boss's voice mail in your voice!

Are you paying attention, virus d00dz? Get creative, fercryinoutloud! Addressbook + fax/voice/modem or VoIP + text-to-speech = wackiness enough to rival a Gilligan's Island marathon.

It is insidious and subtle. It is dangerous and terrifying to behold. It is also a rather interesting shade of mauve.

Goodtimes will give you Dutch Elm disease. It will leave the toilet seat up. It will make a batch of Methanphedime in your bathtub and then leave bacon cooking on the stove while it goes out to chase gradeschoolers with your new snowblower.

I don't think we need to worry too much about these last ones. Still, there's a bit too much Life Imitating Art going on for my comfort. I really am a bit unsettled by mow many of these suggestions, all completely ridiculous 5 years ago, are now easily envisioned...and my how many variants can be thought up given a few moments reflection.Who knows how many more of these we'll have to worry about in another half-decade.

I, for one, am not looking forward to the POCKETBONSAIKITTEN virus.


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This article is...
o funny (I don't use any of that stuff). 20%
o not funny (I'm forced to work in an all-MS shop). 9%
o not funny (You're evil for spreading dirty rumors abuot Microsoft!). 1%
o strangely prophetic. 15%
o a dangerous how-to for virus c0deRz and should be erased. 10%

Votes: 65
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o here
o Jini
o damage your CD player
o smart highways
o nevermind
o Also by mdxi

Display: Sort:
GoodTimes: Not Just a Hoax Anymore | 15 comments (8 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
That was Goodtimes? (3.50 / 4) (#8)
by gmuslera on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 05:10:41 PM EST

As far I remember, the hoax not was so evidently fake... it talked about burning the processor putting it in a loop of n^2 or something like that.

A fast google search showme at the 1st page one with the following text:

The FCC released a warning last Wednesday concerning a matter of major importance to any regular user of the InterNet. Apparently, a new computer virus has been engineered by a user of America Online that is unparalleled in its destructive capability. Other, more well-known viruses such as Stoned, Airwolf, and Michaelangelo pale in comparison to the prospects of this newest creation by a warped mentality. What makes this virus so terrifying, said the FCC, is the fact that no program needs to be exchanged for a new computer to be infected. It can be spread through the existing e-mail systems of the InterNet. Once a computer is infected, one of several things can happen. If the computer contains a hard drive, that will most likely be destroyed. If the program is not stopped, the computer's processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop -which can severely damage the processor if left running that way too long. Unfortunately, most novice computer users will not realize what is happening until it is far too late.

In the GoodTimes Hoax FAQ there are more variant of this text.

Anyway, what was so terrible in that times about goodtimes was

  • An email-only virus (not attachs involved)
  • Only opening the email assures infection
  • Creates copies of itself
  • Destroy hardware
  • A novice user will not know whats happening until is late

With Outlook/Windows blind trust in anything that comes by email, that has become true a lot of time ago. If tomorrow a javascript activated email spreads with tactics like the ones in SirCam or Magistr execute a binary when you open the mail, that send itself to a lot of people and later erases the flash bios, put a wrong microcode in the processor and erases what it can reach on the local network, could be fair call it GoodTimes.

Fortunately in '96 they don't spread an hoax that means that if you connect your computer to internet, it will alone try to attack the white house... nobody would believe in that.

RTFA (3.66 / 3) (#9)
by BurntHombre on Sat Aug 04, 2001 at 12:44:31 AM EST

Wow. You wrote a really well thought out response, with bulleted lists, a link and everything -- when all you needed to do was actually read the article to see that he was talking about a spoof on the Good Times virus hoax, not the original hoax itself. I quote:

In December of 1996, someone wrote a spoof of the mail used by one of the mose famous of these hoaxes, known as GoodTimes.

It's sort of like when your teachers in grade school told you to read the directions *before* taking the test so that you avoid making stupid mistakes.

[ Parent ]

Too deep (3.00 / 2) (#10)
by BlckKnght on Sat Aug 04, 2001 at 04:16:20 AM EST

I think discussing a spoof of a hoax of a virus alert has too many layers of meaning for the average person to comprehend in one try. It's giving me a headache even now... ;-)

Error: .signature: No such file or directory

[ Parent ]
yeah (4.50 / 2) (#13)
by discodeathrace on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 07:26:22 PM EST

One time in grade school the teacher told us to read through the whole 40 page test. I turned it in 3 minutes later. Everyone else just stared at me. One of the answers near the end said "Please turn the test in when you read this." I just sat there and watched everyone sweat over an easy A.

Life is too short to be me.
[ Parent ]
Just a cheap shot! (4.50 / 2) (#11)
by dasunt on Sat Aug 04, 2001 at 10:02:12 AM EST

...and a far less imaginative type which simply purchases every pr0n pay-per-view for the next 6 months for you.

Ahem, yep, I know that virus. It keeps reinfecting my cable box. :) Wait, what do you mean, you were only describing an hypothetical virus? Oh god, now I'm so embarressed.

Seriously though, we were discussing viruses in #kuro5hin, and came up with some pretty neat virus ideas ourselves. The one I was fond of (and thought of) was a virus that created a pseudo-gnutella network, scanned your hard disks for mp3s, linked up to the pseudo-gnutella network (using the host that infected it as an entry point), communicated with the other virii, determined what mp3s you'd probably want based on the mp3s you have (using what other people have in their collections, and how closely they match yours), and then take a small, unobtrusive portion of your bandwidth and use a set percentage of your hard drive based on free space left and how much of your hard drive is devoted to mp3s already, and then starts downloading. Heck, you could do it that it only downloads when a download is already going, so the additional network activity isn't noticeable by most people, who'd figure a 10 - 25% drop in speed would be because of the slow internet. Just an interesting proof-of-concept virus. Sure, it might be a tad big, for all it has to do, but it only has to infect a small loader, that then grab data from the infecting host to get the rest of the program... Only problem is that zonealarm or tinyfirewall would catch it in a flash. :( Hmmm, OTOH, I've never checked out either ZA or Tiny, maybe there is a way for the virus to modify the programs to allow it to pass unmolested. Of course, that still leaves other personal firewall software that needs to be altered, but if you get the common ones, it helps prevent detection by most.

Then again, there is my old standby of a virus that replaces windows solitaire to make a 51 card deck + one spare.

I'm sorry, but virus coders who only code distructive virii have no imagination. :) Any idiot can (and many idiots do) code poorly designed virii which tend to destroy windows networking (and thus give themselves away), or start destroying system files (thus killing off their host). Unfortunately, unlike the real world, any virus that kills off its host actually hinders the spreading of itself. A virus in the real world might gain an advantage by so crippling the host's resources that the host cannot defend itself and can thus allow the virus to distribute more copies of itself, but the closest thing a computer virus can do is a blitzkreig attack, using all system resources as soon as its infected the host, which gives the virus away, but might allow it to spread far before most anti-virus software is updated to identify it. A delayed kill only means that the virus killed off a sucessful host that probably had no clue that it was there.

Turn this around. (none / 0) (#15)
by Corbin on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 04:29:18 AM EST

Any idiot can (and many idiots do) code poorly designed virii which tend to destroy windows networking (and thus give themselves away)

Turn this around: if there were viruses out there which do as you describe, which stay low and don't give themselves away, how would we know about them?

[ Parent ]

You're probably looking for this kind of virus. (2.00 / 1) (#12)
by Jens on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 11:07:57 AM EST


Note: I didn't write the below. I just saved it when I got it - out of the BUGTRAQ mailing list.

"I don't think I really love you"

Over year ago, with couple of friends, we started writing a project, called
'Samhain' (days ago, on packetstorm, I noticed cute program with same name -
in fact it's not the same app, just a coincidence ;). We wanted to see if
it's difficult to write deadly harmful Internet worm, probably much more
dangerous than Morris's worm. Our goals:

1: Portability - worm must be architecture-independent, and should work on
different operating systems (in fact, we focused on Unix/Unix-alikes, but
developed even DOS/Win code).

2: Invisibility - worm must implement stealth/masquerading techniques to hide
itself in live system and stay undetected as long as it's possible.

3: Independence - worm must be able to spread autonomically, with no user
interaction, using built-in exploit database.

4: Learning - worm should be able to learn new exploits and techniques
instantly; by launching one instance of updated worm, all other worms,
using special communication channels (wormnet), should download updated

5: Integrity - single worms and wormnet structure should be really difficult
to trace and modify/intrude/kill (encryption, signing).

6: Polymorphism - worm should be fully polymorphic, with no constant
portion of (specific) code, to avoid detection.

7: Usability - worm should be able to realize choosen mission objectives -
eg. infect choosen system, then download instructions, and, when
mission is completed, simply disappear from all systems.
He who sacrifices stability for user friendlyness will get neither. -- after Benjamin Franklin, 1759
MS and car companies (none / 0) (#14)
by Mitheral on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 02:16:38 PM EST

I wouldn't rule this one out. They're already testing smart highways in places and most car companies have pretty much the same attitude towards things like "quality", "safety" and "fixing problems in a timely manner" that Microsoft does. I wouldn't be suprised if MS isn't already "partnering" with at least one automobile maker. Fear.

Microsoft is already partnering with car companies; checkout this article and be scared. I snagged a good tag line at the time: Oh, this makes me feel secure: [CNET news headline] Microsoft, Japanese rev up Windows CE for cars. I guess the bright side is that it's not a joint venture with Ford and Firestone.

GoodTimes: Not Just a Hoax Anymore | 15 comments (8 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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