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Resident Evil text messages spread phone virus panic

LONDON - A dispute has broken out between the agency that created a mobile phone campaign for computer game Resident Evil and computer security firm Sophos.

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Sophos accused Capcom Europe, the game's publisher, of causing panic after people contacted Sophos to say their mobile phones had been infected by a virus.

In fact, the callers had recevied messages that were part a marketing campaign promoting Resident Evil: Outbreak, the PlayStation 2 survivialist horror game.

The SMS text messages told recipients they had been infected by the T-Virus. It then told them to forward a code for the chance to win a prize and directed them towards a website.

The plot of Resident Evil: Outbreak revolves around the T-Virus, a deadly toxin that turns humans into flesh-eating zombies. The action takes place in Raccoon City, the setting for earlier games in the Resident Evil series.

"This marketing campaign seems particularly ill-conceived as there is so much genuine interest in the mobile virus threat at present," Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, said.

C360, the company behind the SMS and email systems that delivered the messages hit back, saying the texts make clear they are a joke.

It also said it was misleading to suggest the messages being sent were unsolicited, saying consumers passed them on to their friends.

C360 added that there were no documented cases of a text message transmitting a virus.

"Cynics may even suggest that Sophos sees this as a way of generating cheap scare stories about mobile phone viruses and the subsequent need for consumers to protect against them," the company said.

C360 also stressed it had measures in place to ensure that people supplying fake numbers were blocked from signing up and that data from anyone who turned down the invitation would be discarded immediately.

"Around 6,000 invites have been sent and some 40% of people have opted to take part. Anyone who has worked in the DM industry knows this is a phenomenal response rate," Greg Jackson of C360 said.

The Advertising Standards Authority said it had not received any complaints about the campaign.

The new game is being followed by a second 'Resident Evil' movie, 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse', starring Milla Jovovich. The film is due to be released on September 10.

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