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Interview with Cicatric

Horny Toad

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I get many requests from people asking what is the most definitive and complete resource for virus information. Without a second thought, I direct them to VDAT. For those of you who do not know about VDAT, quite simply, it is a compilation of virus writing tutorials, interviews, and reviews of virus utilities and groups.

The creator of VDAT is Cicatrix. Cicatrix describes himself as a regular run-of-the-mill average guy who happens to 'dig' computer viruses. Well, this average guy, is one of the most respected suppliers of virus related material in the world. He not only maintains VDAT, but also a web site, http://www.cyberstation.net/~cicatrix. No other site on the web has kept so many up-to-date virus collections, magazines, and utilities. Let me stress this point - go to Cicatrix's web site to download the most current virus magazines. (especially Codebreakers Zine). Cicatrix also maintains monthly zipped collections of virii and source code, which is great for building your virus database.

If you are new or old to the virus scene and don't visit Cicatrix's site often, I highly recommend that you check it out. From his web site, you can download current versions of VDAT.

In order to shed some light to the mystery of who Cicatrix is, I did an interview with him.

Enjoy.

So, how did you start out in computers?

My first experience must have been around 1983 when I saw some 10-12 year old kid do magic with a computer keyboard. I decided that what a 10-12 year old kid could do I could better so I bought my first computer (Acorn Electron with a cassette player for storage) and started fooling around programming simple stuff in BASIC.

When did you get into the underground scene?

I don't consider myself underground really, I have nothing to hide (yet). My first virus encounter must have been the late '80's. I'd often heard about this magical thing called a computer virus but I had never encountered one. Having moved to an IBM-compatible computer (8088) I was using quite a lot of pirated software and I used McAfee as a virus scanner. Then one day when I decided to scan a diskette which I did not expect to have a virus (it came from a reputable source) I found the Cascade virus. I used this virus to get on a BBS with viruses and started downloading after I got access. With those viruses I got access to other VX BBS's etc.etc.

What groups have you belonged to in the past?

None.

What is your opinion on virii and virus writers?

Both are pretty interesting, but basically I collect viruses just like someone who collects stamps. Writers can be just as interesting although a lot of people that consider themselves virus writers I consider as just hangers-on. There are some pretty weird personalities out there though and I haven't met the 'standard' lonely, pathetic teenager yet.

Do you ever get any hassle or interference from the law about VDAT or your web site?

No, not so far. I don't think what I do is exactly illegal although some might consider it immoral. People who visit my site do so out of free will. Just like I say on my site, should stuff start 'heating-up' I'm going to quit making my collections available through a website.

When did you first put together VDAT? Why?

Release 1.0 was released August 1995. Here's the intro to that version, it includes the why: For years I've been reading .DOC .TXT and .ASC files about the virus and anti-virus scene. Those files are by now spread out across a lot of my diskettes and whenever I wanted to read something a second time I knew I had, I of course couldn't find it and ended up downloading it again. Finally, I was sick and tired of it and came up with a solution. I combined everything in a hypertext format which I now keep on my hard drive. The initial release took me about a month and a half but hey, it's an improvement and I enjoyed doing it. Anyway, why keep it to myself? Here it is, use it if you want to, otherwise: trash it!"

What do you see in the future for virus writers?

As long as there are computers there will be computer viruses, as long as there are viruses there will be virus authors. It might get more difficult in the future to write a 'successful' virus but it has been proven several times already that there are a lot of smart, innovative people that want to write viruses.

How long will you continue compiling virus data?

As long as I enjoy doing it and as long as I have the time.

What are your future plans after school?

Just continue what I did before school, work. The classes I'm doing are just employer-imposed additional training.

Are you currently taking any computer classes?

Nope, everything I know I taught myself.

What is your definition of a hacker?

I don't really have one. Depends on the hacker's background. An 'underground' hacker tries to get access to a system he doesn't have access to. A 'legit' hacker is knowledgeable Unix guru without any real 'underground' needs.

What is your rapport with the AV community?

Almost non-existent. I had a few small e-mail contacts with some. I guess most consider me VX and don't want anything to do with me. Personally I consider myself to be sort of middle-of-the-road, I can appreciate arguments on computer viruses from both sides. I also think there is a basic difference between making computer viruses and know-how available and the active spreading of viruses.

Do you write virii? If so, how many have you written?

Nope, not even with a VCK.

Would you ever refuse to put something on your web site or in VDAT?

Yes, I regularly do. I determine what is on my site, space is limited and it has to fit in the subjects I have. VDAT is a matter of accuracy, I want to be as accurate as possible but if information I get from someone is inaccurate it is hard to check.

Is anything too malicious?

Yes, destruction for the sake of destruction is unnecessary.

How do you see Windows 95/98 affecting virus writing techniques?

The future. Not as hard as some people thought it would be although most W95 viruses are not as stable and sophisticated as some DOS viruses.

How do you find the time to put together and maintain VDAT and your web site?

You tell me, sometimes I don't know how and why I do it. A laptop with the works helps.

Where are you from? What part of the world are you living in now?

Some know my exact nationality but lets stay with Western Europe.

Are there any virus groups that you particularly dislike?

No, I don't dislike anyone in the VX or AV world.

On VDAT, you have interviews with AV people. What is your relationship with and attitude towards the AV community?

Just for the record, a lot of interviews in VDAT were compiled from several e-zines. All of the AV interviews were. The last couple of months I've done several interviews myself but all of those were VX.

Would you encourage beginning virus writers to join a group? Why?

Nothing against groups but with some notorious exceptions the 'best' and most known virus writers started out on their own. This was in the beginning of the computer virus era though, nowadays being a member of a group saves a lot of effort to get to a higher level.

Of all the thousands of virii that you have come across, do you have a few favorites that come to mind?

I 'like' the ones that show a sense of humor. I also 'respect' viruses that are advanced on a technological level, find new holes in system and show a original way of thinking. I don't really 'like' the basic overwriting and/or destructive virus and also viruses created with a well known VCK like PS-MPC are on the bottom of the list.

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