Many virus creators of the late 1990s enjoyed treating their pool of victims with hints to their creative motivation, and the maker of the KRIZ VIRUS was of no exception. Hidden within this destructive code was expletive-ridden lyrics critical of organized religion. The Kriz virus was part of a virus set intended to destroy hard drives on December 25th—one of the most sacred days on the Christian calendar.
In fact, the term “Kriz” in some Slavic languages means “cross,” and its past-participle, “Krized,” is said to be pronounced as “Christ.” While its creator may have taken inspiration from the song “I Don’t Wanna Hear It” by 1980s punk band Minor Threat, the Kriz virus was a MAJOR THREAT and certainly not part of anyone’s Christmas list.
First released in early autumn of 1999, the source language of the Kriz virus was Assembly (also known as Assembler), which meant that it was as close to the circuit level of a computer as it could get. Though this polymorphic virus had the capability of spreading throughout a system, it would lie dormant until Christmas day, when it would then unleash its payload of complete systemic destruction. Also known as W32.KRIZ, the Kriz virus was most destructive from 1999 to 2001, impacting personal computers running the Windows NT, 95, 98 and 2000 operating systems. Once invoked, it would attacked the heart of these systems: Their BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) and Kernel32.dll files.
It should be noted that a computer’s kernel is the core of its operating system, and acts as a gateway between application software and system elements like memory and the central processing unit (CPU). While silently spreading throughout a system’s architecture and files, the Kriz virus would corrupt these components, too. Then on Christmas day, when any of these infected components were executed, the virus would invoke and the entire system would crash. Rebooting was often useless, as the Kriz virus would compromise the most basic functional components of any operating system. In the end, the computer became nothing more than a desk decoration in memory of a Christmas gone wrong.
Just as antivirus companies thought this problem was under control and fading in the mid-2000s, the Kriz virus reared its ugly head once more in the most unlikely of locations. The Sega Dreamcast role-playing game (RPG) Atelier Marie was released just in time for Christmas 2001. The game itself was clean due to the structure of the Dreamcast console, but its accompanying CD of screensavers was somehow infected with the Kriz virus. No one is sure how this came about, but it is suspected that one or more machines used in the production process were infected and passed the virus along to the final product. Needless to say, running the screensaver disk on any compatible machine would begin the process of spreading the virus.
Today, the Kriz virus is ranked as a low threat. Current operating systems are not susceptible to it and it is no longer considered be active in the wild. But somewhere, somebody is working on a new threat, maybe even to a punk music soundtrack. As always, your best protection is to keep your antivirus software up to date and to maintain consistent, periodic system backups.