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Shrek virus - genuine malware or publicity stunt? Sophos comments

June 2011 by Sophos, the dating website that only accepts members who pass an attractiveness rating, is claiming that it has been hit by a computer virus. Sophos has questioned these claims following a press release issued by the website, claiming that a “Shrek” virus made it possible for “30,000 ‘ugly’ people” to join the site, without going through the usual attractiveness approval process.

Greg Hodge, MD of BeautifulPeople said the following in the press release:

"We got suspicious when tens of thousands of new members were accepted over a six-week period, many of whom were no oil painting."

"We responded immediately, repairing the damage from the ’Shrek Virus’ and putting every new member back into the rating module for a legitimate and democratic vote. The result is that we have lost over 30,000 recent members.

"We have sincere regret for the unfortunate people who were wrongly admitted to the site and who believed, albeit for a short while, that they were beautiful. It must be a bitter pill to swallow, but better to have had a slice of heaven then never to have tasted it at all."

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, questions why the website hasn’t needed to inform any security firms about the malware, and raises an eyebrow at the reassurances that members’ privacy and security was never breached.

“BeautifulPeople announced that a former employee placed the malware before leaving the team. It just all seems a little too convenient that this ‘malware’ has generated a huge amount of publicity for the site, without causing any trouble for current or future members,” commented Cluley. “If BeautifulPeople’s story about a Shrek virus is true, I’m the spitting image of Brad Pitt. The firm has conducted impressive publicity stunts in the past, and this is just the latest - dreamt up against a backdrop of newspaper headlines about big companies facing genuine security breaches.”

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