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Painting the Internet: A Different Kind of Warhol Worm

John Aycock
May 2006

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Abstract

Some people have argued that software is artistic. If so, what about malware?

Only occasional, small-scale attempts have been made to create art using malware. We present "art worms," worms which allow an artist to use the entire Internet as a canvas. These worms could be interactive, allowing an artist to stage a global performance, or non-interactive and automatic. Examples are given of artworks that could result from these worms. Art worms raise a variety of questions about the very nature of art: what constitutes art? must art be seen in order to exist? should art be destroyed?

Two major technical aspects of art worms are communication and geolocation. Both aspects ensure that art worms behave correctly to create an overall picture. We look at a number of ways that malware can perform these tasks, which have broader applications to malware targeted at specific countries for the purposes of terrorism or information warfare.

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