[JOKE] Breaking Update: ByteMarx Virus Targets Computing Devices with “Zombification”

WatchGuard’s LiveSecurity team has discovered an alarming new strain of computer virus that is plaguing devices of all types, and even spreading to household electronics such as microwaves, electric toothbrushes and coffee makers. The new threat, known colloquially as ByteMarx (based on its file attachment ByteMarx.exe), is spreading rapidly throughout North America and Europe, and several recent cases have been reported in Australia and Southeast Asia. WatchGuard security experts have reported that this new malware could signal the initial stages of a cyber zombie network apocalypse. For breaking details, watch the short video below or continue reading.

(Runtime: 3:46)

Direct YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrXwWz-RR1A

ByteMarx is a fast spreading computer and electronic device virus that seems to spread via email, instant messager (IM), and social network messages that contain links to a malicious file. Our security experts have discovered that once a device is infected with ByteMarx, response time slows significantly and the device hunts for other victim devices anywhere within range. Electronics afflicted with ByteMarx devour the information stored on hard drives, motherboards and circuitry of nearby devices. Rather than shutting down or malfunctioning, the victim device starts to display the traits of the malicious device and begins an insatiable, relentless hunt for other devices to attack. This process is known as “zombification.”

Additional symptoms of device zombification include:

  • Spontaneous start-up after shut down of the device, even when unplugged (known as “living dead” capabilities)
  • Inability of the device to enter “Sleep” or “Hibernate” power-saving modes
  • Browser homepage defaults to The Walking Dead website
  • Desktop icons and Emoticons turn green, disheveled and appear bloodthirsty
  • Document names have all been changed to “Brainzzz.doc” and the content is no longer decipherable
  • Audio files have been replaced with clips of moaning, shrieking, growling or screams of terror
  • Default photos on social networking sites are changed to photos of zombies

So far, our experts haven’t discovered a way to clean or remove the virulent ByteMarx infection. Your only option is destroying the infected device before it spreads to other electronics. Unfortunately, the tainted devices seem to develop quite a resilience to normal damage. The only way we’ve discovered to stop an infected device is by taking out it’s CPUalso known as the brain of a computing device. We highly recommend you remain very wary of multi-processor devices, as they’re quite difficult to decommission once infected.

Experts are unsure of the origins of the ByteMarx malware, but early research shows evidence of the digitization of a mutated rabies virus, combined in an unholy union with a powerful form of malware. While investigations are still being conducted, early estimates show that nearly 38 percent of devices in the U.S. have already been infected with the virus, however it appears that organizations and individuals using red unified threat management (UTM) appliances to watch and guard networks have been able to successfully ward off attacks.

This attack has illustrated that there is an urgent need for companies around the globe to review their security infrastructure and ensure they are taking the proper precautions to prevent zombification of their network. If you don’t already have a UTM appliance, or can’t obtain one immediately, well… it may already be too late.

Although computer inoculation attempts have failed so far, WatchGuard LiveSecurity analysts will continue to try and develop anti-malware signatures for computers and other consumer electronics that might work as an antidote to the ByteMarx malware. In the meantime, we recommend you keep your favorite computers and consumer devices behind red UTM appliances, or try to find one to hunker behind immediately.

We’ll update you as this breaking situation develops. Until then, WatchGuard security experts would like to wish a sincere “Happy April Fool’s Day” to our customers and partners worldwide. — Corey Nachreiner, CISSP (@SecAdept)

About Corey Nachreiner

Corey Nachreiner has been with WatchGuard since 1999 and has since written more than a thousand concise security alerts and easily-understood educational articles for WatchGuard users. His security training videos have generated hundreds of letters of praise from thankful customers and accumulated more than 100,000 views on YouTube and Google Video. A Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Corey speaks internationally and is often quoted by other online sources, including C|NET, eWeek, and Slashdot. Corey enjoys "modding" any technical gizmo he can get his hands on, and considers himself a hacker in the old sense of the word.

34 Responses to “[JOKE] Breaking Update: ByteMarx Virus Targets Computing Devices with “Zombification””

  1. This is what I am paying for????

    • Gary,

      Sorry if you didn’t enjoy our cheesy shot to put a smile on reader’s faces.

      This blog is actually a freely available security blog that anyone can access. While you are surely paying for LiveSecurity, which includes your software updates, signatures, and services and such, this blog isn’t really part of that. We DO take your LiveSecurity subscription very seriously, and make sure to supply you with real security updates to keep your network protected.

      I hope this attempt at fun didn’t offend you too much.

  2. Ha ha….April Fools…

    Will Howard
    Information Systems Administrator
    —————————————————
    Phone: (517) 369-2315 x301
    Fax: (517) 369-7217

    Douglas Autotech Corp.
    “World Leadership in Vehicle Directional Control Technology”

  3. It’s horrible out there! This morning my coffee maker spewed out some green slime. And my electric toothbrush….well, let’s just say my sinuses have never been so clean.

  4. Michael Petroski Reply April 1, 2013 at 6:42 am

    How about this one….

  5. Security companies should not participate in April Fools. There are too many fools that believe the fool.

    • Todd,

      You bring up an interesting point, which we actually discussed a bit here. We actually pulled back on our full plans, and re-wrote some of the article so that it becomes pretty apparent something is wrong in the first sentence (infected electric toothbrushes!?!?).

      However, my argument is that security professionals and IT guys have a sense of humor too. Dealing with very serious computer malware and attacks day-in and day-out is a very taxing job. There are very legitimate and dangerous attacks out there, and it’s enough to put a black cloud around any IT professional. When that happens, we need to remind ourselves that we can overcome these obstacles, and that we can’t let our attackers kill our spirit.

      For me, this kind of fun spirited post is how I keep my spirits up, and I personally don’t think it takes anything away from the seriousness of my job either.

      By the way, if there is any “fool” out there that does take this one iota seriously, I do apologize. I did everything I could to make it cheesy and outrageous in specific hope that no one would consider it a serious alert. If you follow our alerts, you also notice this post did not have the normal alert template we adopt for our serious security alert posts.

      Anyway, have a great day.

  6. Gepanet Martin Müller Reply April 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Dear Corey,

    this morning I found my XTM 515 with bushy eyebrows and a big mustache. After switching off and on again, it had a new paraprosdokian packet filter called “groucho glasses” which seems to filter on the well-known Havana-cigar-port. The worst thing is, that it had a kind of zombification impact on the owner of the device. I only can sleep four hours a day, and ten at night And even after switching off, I had to write this E-Mail.

    Do you think, this behavior has something to do with the described dangerous virus?

    Regards

    Martin Müller

    • ^_^

      Martin, heh. I hope you found the video amusing. I’m not quite sure whether to interpret your email as a fun way of telling me that my silly April fools day post kept you up unduly, and you don’t want me to make these sorts of posts… Or if you are just creatively telling me how cheesy our video was (and it was!). I hope the later, but in any case I really enjoyed reading your creatively written comment, and I ought to pull out my Groucho Marx glasses during my next video.

      Have a great day (or maybe evening for you now?)

      • Corey, of course I am a friend of very black, very British humor. The message of your post was quite obvious, so I thought you will be happy about my response. I was not aware that your joke could be misinterpreted.
        Last year I was selling some “wireless power supply” that was capable of powering a whole campus with at least 1000 devices on 2 Million sq.ft.! I also heard a lots of “that ain’t not no fun to no one else neither”
        Keep going! It was fun! (There is still a toaster chasing a toothbrush in my brains.exe). I still don’t know how you could manage not to laugh out loud during the take

  7. Not impressed at all. Sure it’s funny when you know it’s a spoof and clearly the virus description is pretty ridiculous, but this is not the appropriate channel to be sending
    virus Hoaxes out on – no matter how well intentioned. It simply reduces your credibility
    and is completely unnecessary.

    April [No bad language please] not fool . .

    • Mark,

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. I will take you thoughts into consideration, and really did not want anyone “falling for a hoax.” See my reply to comments above for my full thoughts.

      In any case, this was never intended as a hoax, but rather a fun joke that I hoped to immediately make the reader/viewer part of. We tried to craft it in a way that it would very quickly become apparent.

      I’m sorry the humor didn’t work for you, and may avoid doing these in the future if more people dislike it than enjoy it. However, I’m personally still convinced it’s ok for people in the security industry to have a sense of humor and have fun. It’s a pretty stressful job for IT folk responsible for their network’s health… I think it’s healthy for them to sometimes have a laugh (or at least mock and troll someone’s horribly cheesy youtube video).

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

  8. tapsjacksonville Reply April 1, 2013 at 9:20 am

    This is not the platform for hoax’s or you could have told everyone at the end of the video this was indeed a joke. I hope you do not get into any trouble with your job, because your information has value and I do appreciate the Podcasting of important news.

    • Taps,

      I’ll let my comments above express how I feel on whether or not it was ok to do a joke post. The end of the video did essentially say it was a joke by wishing you a happy April Fools Day. And more importantly, I designed the contents to quickly become ridiculous, and reflect that this was just tongue in cheek humor.

      I’m sorry you didn’t appreciate it, and will add your thoughts to a list when I consider if I do these fun-intended posts again. As far as losing my job, no one wants to lose their job, but if I lost it for this… well, I think I might be ok with that. I am passionate about my work and security,but also want to enjoy what I do. I think humor is ok, even in our “serious” industry. So if the place I work (and where I’ve worked for 14 years) doesn’t agree, perhaps I’m in the wrong place.

      In anycase, I hope I didn’t give you any undue stress, and that you don’t think my (bad) attempt at humor is appropriate for this channel. At the very least, it has me thinking a bit about the subject. Perhaps it is even a good topic for a opinion blog post, on if, when, and where humor is or isn’t appropriate in the information and network security field.

  9. Corey,

    I like humour too, but the job is pretty stressful especially with constant patching, alerts and late night trouble shooting manufacturer cr*p. Something like this might be acceptable if the fact that it was an April Fool/piece of humour was put at the top or beginning of the work and/or in the intro so at least we are:

    a) Able to decide whether we have the time to read/watch it now or whether we can do it later in the working day

    b) We can approach it looking for humour and brilliant writing not worry

    Tell us you’re being funny at the beginning not the end when we’ve lost time and hair!

    Mark

    • Fair points! And again, we had intended to clue the audience in on the joke quickly… It really wasn’t meant to fool anyone into thinking it was remotely real.

      Nonetheless, next time (if there is a next time) I will think about putting a [Joke] tag in the subject or something.

  10. I say nicely done, Corey. I happen to be one of those (apparently) rare people who take my job seriously and have a sense of humor…all at the same time! I laughed as soon as I saw “household electronics” in the first sentence. And I laughed especially hard at the desktop icons that appear bloodthirsty…

    • Thanks Ryan, I have to admit when I first released this I was more worried that people would hate it for its cheesy humor (or lack thereof). While I love humor, I suck at it personally.

      So I was a bit surprised that some people are upset about the idea of it on this security blog at all. I can see their point if they consider the blog an alerting platform only, but I do intend the blog to cover all kinds of InfoSec topics, even occasionally fun ones.

      Anyway, I’m glad someone liked it at least a little. I probably spent way too much of my weekend smashing computers and animating stuff. By the way, hope you are well.

  11. Hehe, I’ve always looked forward to when this list updates. :)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools'_Day_Request_for_Comments

    Looks like google is bringing the iSmell back from 2001.

  12. Isom Wilson, Jr. Reply April 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    A nice joke!

  13. This was an awesome April Fool’s Day gag, a fun read and much appreciated! We have to laugh about this stuff sometimes or else we hate life. I shared the article with my team and we all got a kick out of it! Great analogies and perfect timing with the Walking Dead too! Thank you Corey and keep them coming!

    • Thanks for letting us know Kelly. With some not happy with this joke-style release, I was a bit sad that my initially fun-intention got lost in the mix. Glad you found it humorous.

      On “The Walking Dead” front… Stop talking! No spoilers! :) I DVR’d the finale last night, but haven’t found the time to watch it yet. So don’t give it away. ;)The only thing keeping me from being really sad that the season is over, is the fact that The Game of Thrones season premiered (missed that so far too, tonight should be fun)!

      • Kelly Robinson April 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm

        Fair enough, i would hate for anyone to spoil either of those shows for me. I only had time to get through one last night myself, and just about to start Game of Thrones. Well enjoy the shows and thanks again!

      • [THE WALKING DEAD FINALE SPOILER!!!]

        ……

        AAAAAHHHHH! Andrea died! That stinks… I read the graphic novel and she’s still a major character there. I guess it makes since in this new arch for her.. but still sad.

  14. Fun and creative :-) Especially like statements about “all your files are renamed to BRAINS”, and “device starts reboot event after you plug it out”.
    Zombies are coming…. we all will die….(someday)…AAAAhhhhh!!! :-)

    • Thanks Alexander, and thanks for all your other comments on the weekly security video. I really would love this blog to turn into a community where other experts (like you) comment and share their own opinions about various security trends and incidents. I certainly don’t know it all, so I love getting first hand opinions from others!

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