Beware the Irina virus--it's a hoax

The so-called Irina virus is a hoax--it originated not in a virus lab, but with an ill-advised publicity stunt perpetrated by Penguin Books.

The so-called Irina virus is a hoax--it originated not in a virus lab, but with an ill-advised publicity stunt perpetrated by Penguin Books.

Email warning of a virus nested in Internet mail messages with the subject “Irina” has been coursing through the local IT industry this week. It 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. Someone 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." Although employees at companies such as Wang, Renaissance and Epson have forwarded the warning to their counterparts, no one appears to have taken a few minutes to check its validity.

The entire hoax--which closely resembles the bogus “Good Times” virus scare--was orchestrated by Penguin Books as a publicity stunt for a new interactive book called "Irina".

According to the Daily Telegraph, Guy Gadney (the former head of electronic publishing at Penguin) sent out a bogus letter to newspapers and television stations giving a warning about the "Irina" virus. The message claimed to be from Professor Edward Pridedaux of the College of Slavonic Studies in London. Prideaux is one of the main characters in the Irina book. Some newspapers received six copies of the bogus letter, all signed by Professor Prideaux, but making no mention of Penguin Books, a publicity campaign or that the warning was a PR stunt.

The hoax was eventually traced back to Penguin via the envelopes used. The College of Slavonic Studies does not exist. But London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies said it had been inundated with calls to the fictitious Professor Prideaux.

New Zealand Internet users should be aware that the The MMF (Make Money Fast) virus scare is also a hoax, deliberately modelled on Good Times.

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