It's one of the more bizarre questions I have been asked during my twenty year involvement in the computer security business. Yet here I am, pondering whether something being called the Shrek virus could have enabled tens of thousands of butt ugly lonely people to bypass the attractiveness filtering of an online dating agency which only allows people voted 'beautiful enough' by the existing membership to join.
OK, so I'll readily admit I'm not 'beautiful' at least on the outside, but I'd rather slash my wrists than join a dating agency which proclaims "Browse beautiful profiles of men and women without sifting through all the riff raff" and "Meet REAL beautiful people who actually look in real life as they do online" to be honest. Shallow folk don't turn me on much, and this whole concept stinks of being shallow to me. Looks are not something a lasting relationship can be built upon.
I have to admit that the press release from BeautifulPeople.com regarding the 'Shrek Virus' also has something of a fishy smell about it. As a rather cynical chap by nature, I cannot help but notice the release comes at the same time as serious security breaches making the headlines. Talking to my contacts at various security companies, none of them have been informed about the existence of a Shrek virus, and none of them have seen any evidence to suggest it does actually exist. Indeed, Graham Cluley who is the Senior Technology Consultant at Sophos reckons it "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".
Certainly as malware goes it would appear to be a rather unusual exploit, in that the press release makes it clear that member privacy and security was never in any danger, and goes on to focus on ugly people being duped into believing they were actually beautiful for a while. "We got suspicious when tens of thousands of new members were accepted over a six-week period, many of whom were no oil painting" Greg Hodge, the Managing Director of the dating agency said in the release.
However, when asked directly if the Shrek virus was a hoax, a BeautifulPeople.com spokesperson told me that "a virus was placed on BeautifulPeople.com internally and time activated, that propagated through the site's rating system. It started in a few countries only, then moved on to the entire system until it completely took over the rating module. The rating module is the gateway to the site - to become a member, applicants must be 'rated' over 48 hours by existing members of the opposite sex. The Shrek virus made the rating module become ineffective. Over 35,000 people signed up when the rating system was down. 5,000 made it back in and 30,000 of them were rejected. Full refunds were made to former members who had paid for premium services only to be rejected".