Ngov Seng Vannak was a 20-year-old student at Build Bright University when he climbed to notoriety two years ago as the first Cambodian to unleash a computer virus in the country.
Named the BBU virus after the university in Phnom Penh where Vannak was majoring in information technology, the virus blazed its way through computers in the capital, causing thousands of machines to operate slower than usual.
Today, Vannak remains in Phnom Penh working with management information systems and although the virus affair is largely water under the bridge, the Kampong Chhnang native remains cautious about repercussions; he declined to have his workplace named due to lingering sensitivity.
Vannak’s virus was the harbinger of Cambodia’s expanding virus-creation industry, driven largely by curious youth out to test their skills. He says that since late 2006 five viruses have been created by students at BBU or the National University of Management, although he denies any further involvement in their creation.
“I don’t have any plan to create something new because I don’t have the time,” he told the Post.
As a student, though, Vannak had time to create the malicious software as well as “test” it on BBU computers for three months until the university rector forced him to sign a contract sparing the school. The BBU virus was then let loose on the general public.
“It was just my research and a way to test my knowledge, and because there was no one creating viruses in Cambodia,” says Vannak, adding, “I think that I can do it as well as those in other countries.”
Vannak says the BBU virus did not bring him any benefits and he regrets the decision to make it because it destroyed many good programs.
Kheng Vantha, web designer for Expat Advisory Services and creator of Khmer Anti-Virus, says it is much easier to create a virus than block one.
“It only takes one or two weeks to make a virus but creating an anti-virus is difficult because we have to find the code of the particular virus.
“I know how to make a virus but I won’t to do it because I want to be famous in a good way,” he says. “I don’t want to be an infamous person.”