A Virus with Something for Everyone

What happens when you take all the things we hate most about the computing experience and ball them up into one thing? You get the FriendGreetings.com e-card. When you receive it, you may think you've received an electronic postcard from a friend. What you've really received is a piece of spam, bundled with an adware payload. If you try to view the card, it immediately delivers its payload to all the users in your Microsoft Outlook address book.

So, the FriendGreetings.com e-card starts its life cycle as a piece of unsolicited e-mail, a.k.a. spam. It installs software on your computer so that it can display those ever annoying pop-up banner ads. Thus, it takes on the charming qualities of adware. Then, like any modern virus or worm, it sends itself out to everyone you know, friends and family. What isn't their to love in this little gem?

Nevertheless, because the message pops up a end user license agreement (EULA), many antivirus companies, such as Symantec and Sophos, have decided not to classify it as a virus. Consequently, their antivirus programs will not detect it as such. So, even if you run virus scanning software, you may not be safe. The logic is -- now see if you can follow this -- because FriendGreetings.com tells you they are about to violate your privacy, they are somehow forgiven and exempt from the label "virus."

The real reason the antivirus companies won't touch this one with a 10 foot pool, I can only assume, is that they are afraid of litigation. The FriendGreetings.com e-card presents itself as a legitimate piece of software, even if it behaves like a virus, spam and adware. One can certainly understand and forgive the antivirus companies for their position. However, I think that rogue antivirus companies such as TrendMicro and Norman, which take a risk and call the FriendGreetings.com e-cards what they are, viruses, have earned a bit more respect throughout the industry this day.

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