[ISN] Resident Evil viral marketing ploy backfires

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Thu Aug 19 12:01:42 EDT 2004


By John Leyden
18th August 2004

A marketing campaign to promote the latest version of the Resident
Evil video game has provoked a panic about the spread of a
non-existent mobile phone virus.

Users have received unsolicited SMS text messages on their mobile
phones telling them they are infected by the so-called T-Virus,
prompting calls to AV company Sophos about the supposed outbreak. The
messages are 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: "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 t-virus.co.uk."

"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, as there is so
much genuine interest in the mobile virus threat at present."

CE Europe, the company behind the marketing campaign, has issued a
press release which makes it clear that the whole thing is a
promotional stunt. IT departments and anti-virus support staff have
enough work in dealing with real viruses without dealing with hoaxes.  
Doubtless, they will be less than whelmed by the self-proclaimed
ingenuity of CE Europe's viral marketing tactics.

It's 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. The hoax continued to spread and cause
confusion for some years. VMyths provides extensive background on the
whole virus hoax phenomenon.

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