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Second Part To Hell is a famous Austrian virus programmer. He was first interviewed by Brigada Ocho in 2002 (His old inteview is in Brigada Ocho E-zine #1) and almost 9 years later, Brigada Ocho decides to do a follow up interview...
He can be reached at email@example.com or http://www.spth.de.vu.
Hey, SPTH. Tell us a little bit about yourself, for the readers who don't know you
OK - hey! Thanks - alcopaul - for asking me to answere a few questions :) I was born 1987 in Austria and I write computer viruses for fun and intellectual challange since 2002. I sign my artworks as "Second Part To Hell".
It's been 9 years since I last interviewed you. Do you still remember the moment when you were answering the first interview questions? How was it?
It's so long ago :) But yes, I can remember that I was happy as hell - i printed out your questions and read them over and over again. My english was quite bad at that time (yes, worse than now) - didnt really get everything that you wrote haha
You mentioned in your first interview that your (ex)girlfriend gave you the handle Second Part To Hell. Now, looking back, how do you feel about it? Did you ever think of changing your handle at one time?
I always liked that name alot - its individual ;) Never thought about changing it.
However - in analogon to Nicolas Bourbaki (the pseudonym of a mathematician collective), together with a few other programmers we sometimes release stuff using the handle "hh86". In order to attract more attention, we've defined that pseudonym to be female. ;)
Thats the same concept as "roy g biv" - three or four people behind one pseudonym. Maybe this is an improved concept to a "virus writing group".
How long have you been programming?
I started coding when I was 12 - somebody showed QBasic to me and a friend, and it was so cool. I can remember making my first GOTOs, making my first LOOPs :D I was so fascinated of commanding the computer to do something. We made "advanced" programs with the commands LINE, CIRCLE and BEEP... It was amazing :))
What has changed in your hometown for the past 9 years? Did the design and arrangement of your room change too? How about the computers that you're using, did you upgrade?
I moved to vienna, so yes, much has changed :)
What programming languages did you learn since you started? What's your favorite? How do you rate each?
I tried several languages - scripts, HLLs, lowlevel languages.
With Assembler, one can be maximum creative, does not have restrictions as you may have with HLLs, thats why I enjoy coding in that language. Disadvantage: Slow progress and you have to think about lowlevel stuff such as variables and memory by yourself, that leads do a bigger bug-density I think.
C++ is my favorite language for coding bigger projects or if you need something quickly.
My favorit language is - of course - my own artificial evolutional metalanguage for x86 systems ;) It's main advantage is the high robustness under mutations, the basic concept came from Artificial Evolution Research projects such as Tierra and Avida by Tom Ray & Christoph Adami, respectivly. Well - just try it out haha!
How did your highschool go? Was it fun? How did you balance school and virus writing?
Sure it was fun, but I was not good at school as I was bored alot. I prefered doing some coding/research on computerviruses while the lessons, rather then listen to the teachers. I balanced it such that I did nearly nothing for school for 11 months of the year, and then spent one months intensively for learning for the subjects that I missed :D Worked out quite well ;)
Where do you study now? What's your major?
I'm studying physics in vienna. Thats fun, but i'm nearly finished with it. Right now i'm doing my master thesis on some quantum theory experiments.
I saw in your homepage that you did nothing vx-related in the years 2006-2008. Do you mind sharing the things that you did during that years?
Yes, in the end of 2006 I started to study. It was not so trivial at the beginning, so I've already had an intellectual challange... Well - and I had no good ideas for viruses :)
What are the most memorable viruses that you've coded for the past 9 years? How important are them to you?
OK, I'll take a few of my favorits:
How do you generate ideas that you can apply to your viruses? Any inspirations?
I have written a short text about that some years ago (Surrealism in viruswriting). That time I tried to get new ideas via the same way as surrealistic artists did in the 1920s (dreams, non-sleeping, alcohol and drugs). Worked very fine, but thats more fun when you are younger ;)
I read alot about techniques and methods in science (physics, chemistry, biology) and mathematics; and try to find ways using that methods in other/foreign fields - such as computer viruses. This works sometimes.
Reading other people's researches also helps alot to get new insights.
As I write this lines, I realize that the only way to get real new ideas is to use surrealistic techniques...
How did you handle the fame and the media attention that came with Clive Thompson's New York Times article about VXers and the VX underground which included your story and picture?
Hah, yes that was fun. Was very nice that - when Clive visited me - I met Arzy (Lord Arz) too, another austrian virus writer (was member of Line Zer0, but that was long time ago), and we all had alot of beer on NYTM's bill ;)
About two years ago I went throu the city and suddenly saw a poster saying something like "Big exhibition by Ryan McGinley" (that was the photographer for the article) - was a great feeling ;)
What do you think about the possibility of an Ready Rangers Liberation Front revival?
Do you miss rRlf? I read the tales of your meetings. Sounds fun. Do you ever think that you will still be able to do the same things even though rRlf is gone?
I'm incredible happy that I was member of rRlf. These people were just great; not just good and creative coders, but also bright minded with a clear attitude. I met philet0ast3r and DiA several times and it was always awesome! Especially with philet0ast3r I still have contact (he visited me last year, and we still were able to drink Korn80 :)) - he also influenced quite alot my interest and view on politics in general, and i'm very thankful for that ;)
I dont miss it because I have these incredible awesome memories ;)
I consider you as the most improved VXer in the scene ever, from coding interesting batch viruses to coding win32asm viruses with complex concepts. How long did you learn win32asm? When did you fully grasp the language? Can you give me tips on how to learn it successfully?
Somebody told me about MenuetOS, which is an OS written in assembler, and joked about writing a virus for it. Well - i accepted the challange and a few months later I finished it. There I understood for the first time what that language is about. I also have small book (in german) about assembler, that explained me more about the theory behind it.
So my advice: Search a project that needs assembler, and tell yourself to finish that project, whatever happens :-) And buy and read a book about assembler - that should explain things that you dont get while coding.
I'm sure I didnt fully grap the language yet - it still surprises me from time to time ;)
How do you view other programming languages after you learned assembly language?
Not sure if there is a difference - maybe one realizes more that the computer is really build out of bits and bytes and logical operations. Probably this influences how you create your algorithms.
Did you ever imagine in the past that your creations be featured in magazines? Thoughts about Peter Ferrie's analysis of your creation Evoris?
Yes, thats cool. I liked it alot that he used the biological designations that I used in my article - this gives the real feeling. And its cool that he learned my meta-language and tried to optimize it into the extreme. I'm sure he has spent many many hours of researching (just see the _div replacement code, which has 1750 lines, or _mul, which has 450 lines).
So, now there are two people who know my language - anybody wants to join? ;)
What can we expect from you? Any new codes or techniques that you want us to preview?
When I find something that is new and worth to code, you will eventually see it. There are some things in my mind which I want to look at closer.
One concrete thing is a good grammar for code-replacements in metamorphism - that needs much more research, which I will eventually do when I'm bored ;)
Also have some thoughts from other research fields, and I'll try to apply them to computer viruses/artificial life.
Have your hobbies changed for the past 9 years? What do you do now in your freetime aside from coding?
I love to play table soccer; drink some glasses of whiskey with friends occationally. I'm interested in many fields of science and mathematics, enjoy to read books by Richard Dawkins. Reading the newspaper, follow local and global politics and try to understand what is going on in the world :)
Do you use mind altering substances? Tell us anecdotes while you were under their influence!
I dont use such stuff.
What do you think about Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other social media?
I use Twitter sometimes to get fast news. Youtube for playlists and I'm not useing facebook or similar stuff.
What's your opinion about Antivirus companies' concentration on profiling Trojans on their websites?
I dont care about AVs in general, they have their business and try to do their job.
The only thing I hate are AVs that detect the plaintext html file of my homepage as computer virus, thats incredible stupid+lazy (note that stupidness+lazyness is an amazingly strong combination).
How do you rate the virus scene now? Any suggestions of how to improve it?
Just have contact to a few other virus writers [that seems to be the right place: hello goes to hh86, herm1t, roy g biv].
No idea how to improve it - maybe be nice to newcomers and show them interesting directions and be interested in their creations?! At least that worked for me long time ago.
Do you think that virus writing will die?
Three new fields for computer viruses have developed last few years:
These are three reasons why virus writing will not die soon.
I'm not sure where is the place for virus writers as they existed in the 1990s and 2000s. I guess they are quite connected to point 2 (academic research). Just see how many scientific papers work with MetaPHOR, NGVCK, ZPerm, Mistfall,... And for instance Qozah has introduced a whole new research field with his text "Polymorphism and grammars" in 1999.
What's your opinion about Osama Bin Laden being dead? Do you think it will just escalate to more terror?
Good that he cannot cause any further harm. But I'm sad that there are still so many leaders and potentates around the world who dont care about humanity.
How long will you do virus writing?
Whenever I have some good idea and some time, I will try to bring it to reality :)