xkcd’s Virus Aquarium Made Real

virus aquarium

xkcd’s comic 350, “Network” Click to View.

A surprising number of projects here are in some way influenced by the webcomic xkcd, but usually not as directly as this. Comic 350, “Network” is the tale of a very odd stickman who keeps multiple VMs running an unprotected, old version of Windows. Between the VMs, they have virtually every virus and are, effectively, a computer virus aquarium.

Now it’s a real thing, and best of all, it’s open to the Internet for normal humans to view, complete with screencaps of all seven nodes updated every 30 seconds, the ability to view all processes on each node, and anyone on the Internet can upload any file to a node. All the files uploaded to the nodes are executed, so you get to see in real-time what the effects of “1TB_of_porn_this_took_a_while_to_upload.exe” are on node 3.

The idea of a virus aquarium is cool, but this actually gets much, much more interesting when the project metas itself. Every 24 hours, a virus scanner runs on each node. As of right now, all the nodes are clean making this not a virus aquarium, but a script kiddie aquarium. On at least one node, TeamViewer is running but your guess is as good as mine as to how anyone will get that working.

Edit: Thank you to the person who loaded Hackaday on one of the nodes.



  1. Waterjet says:

    It’s just like high school all over again. Except the daily wiping.

  2. murdock says:

    Anyone got the spaces source code available? Or a saved I love you email?

  3. Maxwell says:

    Man, I got teamviewer running on one machine, but then someone hijacked the install before I could get it running. Damnit. Also, amusingly someone uploaded a ninite installer loaded with antivirus to one machine, and another tried to install ubuntu. Oh, and it now has bonzai buddy running. So there’s that.

  4. DB says:

    Surely (assuming you can just upload a file to any of the nodes) you could run a .bat or macro to start teamviewer and get the ID and password from the regular screenshot?

  5. denis says:

    just had to Google teamviewer. why not upload a preconfigured vlc server or use one of the script kiddie tools to preconfigure a payload likes of sub7. one upload and its done.

  6. neolinuz says:

    Anyone has tried with the reverse shell of metasploit? ;)

    • omegatotal says:

      The VM’s are all probably behind a nat inside the baremetal system. and also probably behind a filtering firewall to stop them from being destructive on the wan.

      So you have to get a connection out from the machine through the nat

  7. Kris Lee says:

    Lol, it would really get meta when someone breaks out of the VM.

  8. Dojo says:

    Uhm, someone openen HaD on one of these machines, so they can access other hosts on the internet? This seems incredibly irresponsible…

  9. Just put a up a fully patched OpenBSD box with and open FTP server and see what shows up.

  10. Adobe/Flash hater says:

    Why do I have an uncomfortable suspicion that something that If/When
    we get a true “artificial intelligence”, that something like this will be the genesis of it.

    • Do you mean like the “Love Machine” Ai from Summer Wars?

      • Adobe/Flash hater says:

        I’ll have to see if my friend who owns quite a collection of videos
        (and a used video shop) has a copy of that.
        I have to admit that I’ve never really cared for the visual styling of “Japanime”
        So I’ve probably missed some stuff that I would like the story line of
        , assuming that it wraps up in a few episodes or a movie (long ones are fine though)
        I’m a bit too ADD for most series types shows, even with download & binge watching.
        Probably a bit related to my tendency to post a comment then forget to look back for replies.

  11. Eric says:

    I wonder what the Chernobyl virus would do to the virtual Intel 440BX bios? This could be a leaky aquarium. I always called it a “sandbox” actually.

    You can run ESXi as a VM in ESXi, then the VM’s as “grandchildren” of the bare metal system. Do it twice and set the two to fight each other.

    Reminds me of the twitch pokemon thing my kid is obsessed with…

  12. Aztraph says:

    RIGHT! everyone click on a link that leads to a sight cultivating viruses, good luck with that!

  13. barry99705 says:

    Pretty sure I still have the Melissa virus on a floppy somewhere.

  14. C7VXZ8 says:

    Challenge Accepted!

  15. di0de says:

    Its all fun and games until they break out of the hypervisor.

  16. opless says:

    Seems to be dead. as of 9pm UK time.

  17. We had some apache issues and are currently fixing it. Its up again but might go down for a few minutes in the next hour :) The aim is to keep this up 24/7

  18. We are migrating some stuff to SSD at the moment

  19. X41 says:

    dammit, i was working on something like that already….

    i wanted to get it working on new years eve

  20. c3p says:

    Looks like a remote game machine atm, dosbox+Larry and Internet Checkers running :D

  21. Sugapes says:


    Switching to Linux/Mac is putting all those lovely windows virus in danger of mass extinction. Systems like this might be the only way to preserve them for future generations…

  22. Heh, I saw the guy who made this post about it on 4chan a few days ago, he wanted to give it some light testing before releasing it to the masses, good times where had by all.

  23. The page is back up again, all new design, new backend and in short time challanges as well

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