An irritating but relatively harmless virus doing the rounds on the Internet is alienating potential supporters of legalising marijuana.
The Marijuana virus has been packaged into a 'game' called either Dope Crop (or Weed Farmer) which in reality is a Trojan horse program that changes the start page on a user's browser to my.marijuana.com and puts a marijuana leaf on a user's system tray. The bug, which is also believed to be spreading via email, also changes the name of Internet Explorer to "Marijuana Explorer (Legalise It!)".
Among its other effects, which are explained in more detail here, each day at 16:20, the virus displays a message box with the title "The Marijuana Virus!!" and the message "It's 4:20, Time to toke up :)"
Potentially very embarrassing, although not necessarily an entirely screwy idea.
The Trojan horse has nothing to do with the people who run Marijuana.com, a site that advocates the legalisation of pot, who have found themselves bombarded with aggressive (and decidedly un-mellow) messages. These in turn have generated retaliatory flames saying that people who download programs from the Internet without checking them for viruses must be "twits", or worse.
Rick Garcia, the Web master of Marijuana.Com, has posted a note to its users that said the site was on the receiving end of a practical joke.
"Marijuana.Com is in no way involved in this prank and is purely an innocent bystander who apparently fit the bill for this virus," said Garcia, whose site has been targeted by hackers since the virus first cropped up almost six weeks ago.
Antivirus vendors have largely updated virus definitions to detect the bug but Marijuana.com is still receiving a steady stream of aggrieved emails.
If a pot head (such as a Tory shadow cabinet member, perhaps?) wrote the virus it's having the opposite effect of what the legalise dope camp would want. ®