New Viral Marketing Stunt Has Similar Impact to a Real Virus
Sophos technical support has received a number of reports from customers concerned about an email inviting them to visit a website to view comedy video clips such as one of Bill Gates being hit with a custard pie by Belgian anarchists.
Users following the link in the email, are invited to install an application called “Internet Optimizer” (IO) from a website run by Avenue Media NV, based in the Caribbean island of Curacao. If users agree to the terms of the end-user license agreement (EULA) for IO they are granting permission to Avenue Media NV to send an invitation to view video clips to all the contacts in the user’s Outlook address book and instant messaging systems.
Sophos is concerned that many computer users will not read the EULA with enough attention and simply grant permission for the application to be installed, without realising that emails and instant messages will be sent to all their contacts. Although this is not a virus or a worm, these viral marketing campaigns have the potential to clog up a large amount of a company’s email bandwidth like a mass-mailing worm. Following requests from several customers, Sophos Anti-Virus has been updated to detect this application as App/ViewMov-A.
“The makers of this email nuisance appear to have been inspired by the Friends Greeting incident of October last year which affected thousands of internet users,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus. “Just like then the people behind this are taking advantage of the public’s reluctance to read ‘legalese’ and small print.”
Sophos recommends companies consider blocking access to non-work-related websites (in this case, www.movies-etc.com), and educate users to check with their IT department before installing unauthorised code onto their computers.
By agreeing to the terms of the EULA, users are also providing Avenue Media with remote access to their PCs. The license sets out that Avenue Media has the right to add new features and install and unistall software packages.
“The agreement to allow Avenue Media access to your computer to update and install code as it sees fit is particularly disturbing,” continued Cluley. “The decision about whether to grant such permission should only be made by an IT department fully aware of the consequences, not a user frantically clicking ‘next’ on a license agreement in their hurry to see a movie of Bill Gates being splattered with custard.”
Further information regarding the App/View-A application can be found at Sophos’ web site.