As if the parade of hackings, theft, exchange failures and heartbleeds wasn’t enough, a virus scare in the actual blockchain itself has come to light over the weekend.
An “ancient relic”, a DOS virus called “Stoned”, was apparently detected by Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) in the blockchain. The virus is believed to date back to 1987 and to have originated in New Zealand. When a PC is infected, there is a 1 in 8 chance that upon booting, the system will beep and display the following message: “Your PC is now stoned! LEGALIZE MARIJUANA!”
Other than that, no real damage is caused to the PC. However, the virus can spread from the hard drive to 5.25″ floppy disks (remember those?) and some files can be lost.
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With the blockchain, further examination reportedly showed that the virus itself is not actually present. Rather, snippets of the virus were apparently uploaded, “accidentally”, into the blockchain.
The inconvenience is that MSE then detects the bitcoin client as a threat and deletes the entire thing. For those running a full node, currently sized at about 16 GB, it takes some time to re-download.
Users in the Microsoft forum have threatened to move to other security packages, although it was debated if anything comparable is readily available. At the end of the thread, Microsoft appears to respond: “Thanks for your message. We are aware of the issue and have made changes to the signature that should prevent this from happening.”
Once something makes its way into the blockchain, it is permanently etched forever, like in fresh cement. Apparently, small bits of data can be embedded into the blockchain under specific circumstances. This has been identified as weakness in Bitcoin, as illegal content can be disseminated through the blockchain. It hasn’t been deemed enough of an issue to date to warrant attention for new releases.