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Gold'en Rant of the Week : Viral marketing at its worst

A new Web site - - that popped up at the start of the World Cup, and had a series of heroic displays of someone's hand on a desktop, using two fingers to perform footy-style tricks with a hand- made paper ball, has turned out to be a test viral marketing campaign by HP.

The site, which attracted approaching 200,000 unique users, generated a lot of gossip on the Net and even spawned a new type of Net video, the fingerball vid.

HP says claims to be very happy with the response to the viral campaign, which it says got the message out about its notebook and desktop PCs, which, of course, were in the background of all the videos.

The site was supposed to be the brainchild of a bored office worker, so I'm more than a little peeved to discover it was a marketing campaign all along.

I'm even more upset by the fact that most recipients of emails from their friends and colleagues pointing to the site will click on the links without thinking.

This is dangerous, as witnessed by a recent Flash-based attack which was embedded into a MySpace profile. The Flash file automatically routed Netters to a blog post on 9/11 conspiracy theories, as well as

cloning itself into the MySpace profile of the user accessing MySpace at the time.

Bottom line? Viral marketing can pose a number of security risks and, whilst a number of companies use the technology to promote themselves, they also need to promote the need for user to be safe and secure.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.