A hoax alert warning MP3 users that they might have downloaded songs infected with viral code is doing the rounds on the Internet.
The note, posing as a press release, warns of an "imbedded hybrid virus" called MusicPanel which, according to the hoax, targets fans who have "downloaded unauthorised songs from Napster, Gnutella or other file swapping applications on the Internet."
On July 4, "those who have downloaded any of 500 most popular songs planted on the Internet ... will find their illicit music unusable and their computers frozen due to the timed release of this bomb."
The message, which reads more like a rant against the MP3 community than a security warning, describes MusicPanel as a "global weapon" in the fight against music piracy.
It says that the only way to prevent the supposed damage caused by MusicPanel is the "removal of the illicit songs from hard drives". However, as security experts were able to verify, the warning is cobblers and can be safely ignored.
Jack Clark, European product manager at Network Associates, said that it was impossible to spread malicious code through MP3 files, which are data files that cannot execute by themselves.
However he said music lovers might still be misled by false file names so they need to be wary of .vbs (Visual Basic) extensions and the like when downloading music files. ®