WXYC Goes Viral
Greetings everyone from the light at the end of the (Holland) tunnel! That's right, beautiful Jersey City is my home away from home for the Summer. Even though I can still pick up great free-form radio on the FM dial, I've found myself tuning into WXYC's webcast quite regularly. There is no better cure for a scorching hot Sunday morning (damn you urban heat-bubble) than a cold beer and a little OCS on the stereo.
As will happen during the Summer months, the WXYC blog seems to be.... well, completely neglected. In an effort to keep it somewhat up to date, I've decided to do a post or two in my own bland and underwhelming style. Bear with me here, as we delve into the WXYC history books...
From turn of the millenium WXYC 'zine Signal to Noise, Barry Summerlin explains the WXYC computer virus and its possible origins as a prank on our darling rivals over in Durham:
If anyone has the goods on the WXYC computer virus, no one's talking. Antivirus software maker McAfee says it was first tipped to the WXYC virus, which only affects PCs running the DOS operating system (i.e. Macs, machines running Unix, Linux et al are in the clear), in October 1992. The WXYC virus -- actually there's a whole gang of them cited in various online virus directories: Stoned.WXYC, WXYC.A, WXYC.A*, WXYC.A-O and WXYC.B, possibly more -- is a fairly common derivative of one of the most common computer viruses, Stoned.
Stoned family viruses corrupt the master boot record of a hard drive (usually by hiding a computer's startup instructions, eating some memory and replicating themselves onto any non write-protected floppy disks accessed) as well as a floppy disk's boot sector (which, when booting a computer from an infected disk, corrupt the master boot record of a hard drive, and the cycle continues).
The original Stoned virus contains the text "LEGALIZE MARIJUANA!" in the viral source code (the behind-the-scenes (screens?) instructions that run the virus, which would not display on a terminal). About once every eight times one reboots a 'Stoned' computer, the text "Your PC is now Stoned!" will be displayed. The WXYC virus is similar, writing "WXYC rules this roost!" on the screen 1 in 7 times that an infected computer is booted. The text "JAM WXYC" is contained in the viral code.
Other Stoned virus derivatives (there's about 100) pay homage to such WXYC-pertinent topics as the Jesus and Mary Chain (Stoned.J&M.C;), Frank Zappa (Stoned.Zappa; on Dec. 4th (Frank's death date), it displays "Dedicated to ZAPPA..."), and the Chinese government's student massacre at Tienanmen Square (Stoned.Bloody; on June 4th displays the text "Bloody! Jun. 4, 1989").
The WXYC listing at IBM's antivirus site Inside The Lab notes that "WXYC is the call sign of a university radio station in the Eastern United States; the virus first appeared on the campus of a nearby rival university." This is somewhat corroborated from this virus alert from the February 1996 issue of Connections, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' internal newsletter: "A PC virus was found at NIEHS. The virus came to NIEHS on a diskette from Duke University. The virus is a master boot sector virus that will state 'WXYC rules this roost' upon bootup of your PC."
The odds are pretty long against anyone 'fessing up to the WXYC virus, especially in print. North Carolina considers "introducing, directly or indirectly, a computer program, (including a self-replicating or a self-propagating computer program) into a computer, computer system, or computer network" a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious classification of misdemeanor; if actual damage from the virus exceeds $1,000, it's a felony in North Carolina, which could land our geek in the pokey.
Paul Jones, Director of UNC MetaLab, reports the WXYC virus remains "in the wild," which is geekspeak regarding a virus that remains in circulation. WXYC-B and tons of other viruses are available from mint-hpvac.com/virii/virii.html, if you make a good case ("ONLY those who need these files for researching viruses will get a reply."). On the offchance the WXYC virus resurfaces on your PC, current antivirus software from McAfee, Symantec's Norton line et al will detect and make short work of it; a specific fix for the WXYC virus is available at ftp://ftp.edu.tw/PC/simtelnet/msdos/virus/qwxyc.zip
...I hope you all enjoyed this little blast from the WXYC vaults, and who knows, you might have even learned something. As we learned today, those who don't learn from the past are doomed to spend 90 days in jail (but she was helping the kids?!). Till next time...