Gigabyte is a virus coder from Belgium. She is known for being one of the few female virus/worm writers, as well as being very public and ethical about her virus/worm writing. Her feud with Sophos Anti-virus expert Graham Cluley is also notable. A few of her viruses like Coconut are humorous, while others, such as Sharp are intended to demonstrate new concepts. None of Gigabyte's viruses or worms has ever made it into the wild.
Gigabyte lives in the town of Mechelen, Belgium, a few kilometers outside of Brussels. She began programming on her uncle's Commodore64 when she was 6 years old and began writing viruses as a member of the Metaphase VX team as a hobby when she was 14. Her first virus took over the shutdown screens of the infected user.
She went to a religious school that no longer taught religion, but according to Gigabyte, had good computer classes. Her teacher was impressed with her programming skills, but did not approve of her virus writing. Although the teacher did not approve of her virus writing, Gigabyte had more or less friendly relationship with the teacher.
Over time, Gigabyte gained a great deal of respect in the VX community and was even an inspiration to others. Some wrote tributes to her in their viruses and worms. One named Trilisa contains the text "HECHO EN ADMIRACION DE GIGABYTE". A VBS worm named Charlotte (sometimes also known as Nothsky) contains the text, "Just like to show my support to Gigabyte whos [sic] work has inspired many to create bigger and better projects. thanx… [sic]". It is sometimes mistakenly reported that these were written in response to her arrest, but they are both from 2002. It shows she had strong admiration for a significant amount of time.
Gigabyte was arrested by Belgian authorities on 2004.02.09 on 11 counts of a Belgian "computer data sabotage" law from 2000. Five of her computers were confiscated and her website was shut down. She could have faced a prison sentence of three months . to three years and a fine of 100,000 Euros.
In most countries, it is illegal to spread viruses, but not to simply create them. As Gigabyte had never deliberately spread the viruses, there would be no case against her. No charges were pressed, as nothing she coded ever caused damage.
Gigabyte has not coded any viruses or worms since being arrested. She continued pursuing a degree in applied computer sciences, but had grown tired of programming and decided to focus on networking and security. Before completing her bachelor's degree, she did some of her final work in Vietnam. She graduated in 2006. In 2008, she achieved a master's in Industrial Sciences. Currently, she works at a high school in Brussels as a networking advisor.
Gigabyte codes viruses out of curiosity and trying out new programming languages (C# and Logo). Many of her viruses are humorous and include funny quizes and games. None of her viruses cause significant damage to the computer's operating system and one YahaSux even erases certain variants of the Yaha worm.
Gigabyte has been known for being one of the more ethical virus/worm coders. She has never released a virus or worm to the wild, although expresses disdain for people who open email attachments from strange senders, and even new users who do not know better. She believes the fault is on the user for opening and running the attachment.
In spite of this, Gigabyte has said it is very mean and disrespectful to exploit tragedies like 9/11 and the SARS to get users to open an attachment, as it will make otherwise intelligent users forget good security pracitces, since the event is important to them and probably coming at a difficult time.
While many in the press reported that Gigabyte writes viruses as a feminist statement, Gigabyte has said that she writes viruses entirely out of curiosity. She believes that while the world should know that not all virus writers are spotty teenage nerds who can't pull, she writes viruses for her own enjoyment, not for the world. In an email sent to silicon.com, Gigabyte said, "Writing Sharp to fight against sexism? Girl power? heh… As if I'd bother. It's not on me to stand up for female's in the computer world, that's something everyone's gotta do for themselves…. Also, if these were my reasons, I would've mentioned something about sexism in the virus itself, right? Right."
The myth that Gigabyte writes viruses as an anti-Microsoft statement and to embarrass the company has been reported almost as much as the myth that she wrote them as a feminist statement. Although her website had the text "Bill Gates is Satan", and she once described Bill Gates as "ugly", this may have just been for humor. Gigabyte said she has nothing against Bill Gates or Microsoft personally, but does not like their inability to admit to having made mistakes. In addition, Gigabyte found no major problems with the .NET platform or C#, other than that one can create a virus for that platform in that language, just like any other language or platform.
One of her favorite programming languages is C++.
In addition to computers, Gigabyte likes horses, kickboxing and dancing. Her favorite types of music are house and trance. She does not like computer games.
She at one point owned a pet ferret. In recent years, her interests in animals have turned towards snakes. Her first was a Corn Snake named Ringo, who passed in 2010 and her current snake is a Boa named Calypso.
Gigabyte's viruses and worms:
- Buffy (two versions)
- Gum (two versions)
- Scrambler (two versions)
- YahaSux (two versions)
Joey Gardiner. Silicon.com, Female virus writer didn't do it for "girl power". 2002.03.06
Webwereld, "Belgische politie verhoort Gigabyte". 2004.02.16
Mathieu Van Overstraeten. La Libre Belgique, "La police intercepte une pirate belge". 2004.02.14
Becky Worley. TechLive, "Belgian Law Bites Gigabyte". 2004.02.18
Rick Lockridge. Tech Live, "Female Hacker Packs Punch". 2002.04.24
Mary Landesman. About.com Antivirus Software, "Rumor Confirmed: Gigabyte Arrested". 2004.02.14
Douglas Knowles. Symantec Security Response, "W32.Trilisa@mm".