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Irina virus

CATEGORY: Publicity stunt virus alerts

Rumors circulated in September 1996 of a "deadly new" virus known as Irina. Virus researcher Graham Cluley (then working for Dr. Solomon's Software) noticed the rumor closely resembled the Good Times hoax — and he uncovered a PR-event-gone-awry while searching for the roots of Irina. "The entire hoax was orchestrated by Penguin Books as a publicity stunt for a new interactive book called Irina," he declared in a public Internet message.

"According to the Daily Telegraph," continued Cluley, "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 Prideaux of the College of Slavonic Studies in London.

"Prideaux is one of the main characters in the Irina book Penguin is planning to launch," Cluley noted. "Some newspapers received six copies of the bogus letter, all signed by Prof Prideaux, but making no mention of Penguin Books, a publicity campaign or that the warning was a PR stunt."

England's Daily Telegraph originally quoted Guy Gadney as saying "it is very unfortunate that we have created a scare — it was not our intention." Gadney later tried to cover up his role in the hoax. A scathing editorial in the 11/96 edition of Ansible proclaims:

"Guy Gadney has developed a damage-control response which irritatingly glosses over little matters like culpability:
'There is an Interactive Novel which you can access from the Penguin Books homepage at www.penguin.co.uk called 'Irina' after the main character Irina Zotova. This has conflicted with reports of a virus called Irina which does not exist and the Professor Edward Prideaux mentioned is a character in the story. The virus rumour has been checked by experts in the UK and it has been confirmed that there is currently no 'Irina' virus to guard against and that an email erroneously circulated to a mailing list was at the root of this rumour.'
Admiring this wholehearted apology, this eager readiness to shoulder the blame, one is compelled to the realization that Guy Gadney is wasted in publishing and should move to a career in politics. As soon as possible."

Last updated: 2000/7/2