On the trail of the Dark Avenger: the most dangerous virus writer in the world

  • May 9, 2023
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Bulgaria in the 1980s became known as the ‘virus factory’, where hundreds of malicious computer programs were unleashed to wreak havoc. But who was writing them, and why?

In the 1980s, there was no better place than Bulgaria for virus lovers. The socialist country – plagued by hyperinflation, crumbling infrastructure, food and petrol rationing, daily blackouts and packs of wild dogs in its streets – had become one of the hottest hi-tech zones on the planet. Legions of young Bulgarian programmers were tinkering on their pirated IBM PC clones, pumping out computer viruses that managed to travel to the gleaming and prosperous west.

In 1989, an article appeared in Bulgaria’s leading computer magazine saying the media’s treatment of computer viruses was sensationalist and inaccurate. The article, in the January issue of Bulgaria’s Computer for You magazine, titled The Truth About Computer Viruses, was written by Vesselin Bontchev, a 29-year-old researcher at the Institute of Industrial Cybernetics and Robotics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia. Fear of computer viruses, Bontchev wrote, was turning into “mass psychosis”.

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