Penguin Books has come under fire for posting a hoax virus on the Internet as part of a publicity stunt to promote a new publication.
The hoax virus is contained in an Email message which reads: "There is a computer virus that is being sent across the Internet. If you receive an Email message with the subject line "Irina" DO NOT read the message.
DELETE it immediately. Some miscreant is sending people files under the title Irina. If you receive this mail or file, do not download it. It has a virus that rewrites your hard drive obliterating anything on it."
The message is attributed to a Professor Edward Prideaux of the College of Slavonic Studies, London. The college named does not exist but there is a London School of Slavonic and East European Studies, which has been swamped with calls for the fictitious professor.
Prideaux is one of the characters featured in Penguin Books new interactive novel, Irina. Bogus letters containing the warning were sent out to news agencies and television stations as part of a publicity exercise designed to attract attention to the launch of the novel.
But anti-virus software developer DR Solomons attacked the publicity stunt. Graham Cluley, the company's senior technology consultant, said: "It was hopelessly naive of Penguin to send out these messages. Apparently a second message was sent out to explain that the warning was a hoax but by then Pandora's box had already been opened."
Cluley added that while it was obvious to him the virus was a hoax as the attack as described in the alert couldn't possibly be triggered by a virus, "not everybody would know that".
Penguin Books apologised for the Email. In a statement, Jenny Dufton, the company's publicity director, said: "The campaign was intended only to intrigue and amuse. Needless to say, its aim was in no way to cause alarm among computer users."
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