Users receiving virus hoax via SMS: game marketing
Posted on 19-Aug-2004 20:13
Filed under: News
A marketing campaign to promote the latest version of the Resident Evil video game has made mobile phone users believe they have been infected by a virus. Anti-virus developer Sophos' technical support has received enquiries from users who have received unsolicited SMS text messages on their mobile phones telling them they are infected by the so-called T-Virus.
Sophos's investigation has discovered that the messages are being sent from a website designed to promote the game Resident Evil: Outbreak, in which players defend themselves against zombies by blowing their heads off with a shotgun.
The website allows unsolicited text messages to be sent to mobile phones claiming that the phone is infected, without the permission of the phone's owner. A typical message reads as follows:
Outbreak: I'm infecting you with t-virus, my code is ******. Forward this to 60022 to get your own code and chance to win prizes. More at *****
"The messages themselves are not infectious, but some people have panicked that they might have received a real mobile phone virus," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "This marketing campaign seems particularly ill-conceived, particularly as there is so much genuine interest in the mobile virus threat at present."
Sophos is also disturbed that CE Europe, the company behind the marketing campaign, have issued a press release including quotes suggesting that the "outbreak" is "totally out of control".
Sophos notes that this is not the first time a virus hoax has been started to promote a product. In 1996, Penguin Books started the Irina hoax in an attempt to promote a new book. That hoax continued to spread for some years.