|Years active||1988 - 199?|
Dark Avenger is a Bulgarian virus coder who was active in the late 1980's and early 1990's. His most famous virus is Eddie (sometimes antivirus products name the virus after him). Dark Avenger is also known for his polymorphic mutation engine.
Dark Avenger is believed to have lived and worked in Sofia, Bulgaria, as some of his works contain text strings indicating that they come from there. His first computer was possibly the Pravetz 82, a popular Bulgarian Apple II clone.
He was likely to have been inspired to create viruses after "Computer for You" (a Bulgarian computer magazine) published an article transated from German about computer viruses. His first virus was Eddie, a .com and .exe infecting virus. This virus quickly became an epidemic. His last virus was Commander, coded in 1993.
During his virus-coding career, Dark Avenger developed a strange relationship with antivirus researchers Sarah Gordon and Vesselin Bontchev. He strongly hated Bontchev and the feeling was mutual. Dark Avenger even signed some of his works as Vesselin Bontchev. He left a message in Bontchev's mailbox and Bontchev replied in Computer for You, a Bulgarian computer magazine. Bontchev was accused of egging Dark Avenger on to create newer, more innovative viruses.
Sarah Gordon initially met Dark Avenger on the Fidonet Virus Echo (an early internet forum), looking for information on the PingPong virus that had come with a computer she had recently bought. Browsing the forum, she came upon the name "Dark Avenger" and quickly became intrigued by him. At one point while posting to the forum, she said that she would like Dark Avenger to name a virus after her. Gordon later said about this that she would not have made request if she had known more about viruses at the time. Gordon spoke with both antivirus people as well as virus creators and began to understand viruses better. As Gordon has a background in juvinile corrections, she saw some of the virus creators as similar to "youths in crisis".
Dark Avenger was particularly interesting to Gordon, as he did not seem to want the same kind of attention that many other virus creators wanted. He didn't even try to contact her after she asked him to name a virus for her. Some time later, Dark Avenger released his mutation engine in a virus with the text "We dedicate this little virus to Sara Gordon, who wanted to have a virus named after her.". She found someone who was in contact with Dark Avenger and wrote a message in Bulgarian for him to forward to Dark Avenger. She finally came into contact with him and he gave an interview. When he learned that she was to be married in 1995, he cut off all communication with her.
Questions of Dark Avenger's Existence
Dark Avenger's entire life is something of a mystery. Whether or not he even existed, or if he was a single person is questionable. It is also possible that there are several people around the world claiming to be Dark Avenger. Some have even suggested that Dark Avenger is a creation of the Antivirus industry.
One possibility is that he is a man named Todor Todorov, also known as "Commander Tosh", founder of Bulgaria's Virus Exchange BBS. He has the same dislike for Vesselin Bontchev as Dark Avenger and has called Sarah Gordon a "nice lady". Todorov has not denied this, but said he has no desire to see his name in print and would prefer that reporters leave him alone. Ivalio Lenkov, who knew Todorov since childhood, says he is not.
Dark Avenger says he never intended to use that name as his handle. The words were written into the Eddie virus, which were taken from an Iron Maiden song. Dark Avenger was a big fan of American and British heavy metal music, and many of his viruses have heavy metal themes. Bontchev called him Dark Avenger for the text in the virus and the name stuck. It is possible that some crackers and other virus creators have used this name, either as imposters or as a tribute to the man they view as a great figure.
- Eddie (and several variants)
- Number of the beast
- 512 (six variants)
Whether or not the following two are actually his is a subject for debate, but they are certainly done in his style:
Dark Avenger allegedly wrote a removal tool for the Eddie virus. The following text was found in a version log of the Eddie virus:
"DOCTOR QUICK! Virus Doctor for the Eddie Virus Version 2.01 10-31-89 Copyright (c) 1988-89 Dark Avenger. All rights reserved. DOCTOR /? for help
David S. Bennahum. Heart of Darkness.
Sarah Gordon. Virus News International, Inside the mind of Dark Avenger. 1993.01
Vesselin Bontchev. The Bulgarian and Soviet Virus Factories. 1991
F-Secure Antivirus, F-Secure Virus Descriptions : Dark Avenger.
40Hex Magazine (through the TEXTFILES), Volume 1 Issue 2, "The Dark Avenger".