The news from McAfee is alarming: a new virus can infect .JPG picture files; potentially no file type is safe to exchange in e-mail; maybe we should never share .JPGs by e-mail. Here’s the McAfee press release; here’s an example of the news coverage it generated today.

Well, nonsense. This has the same degree of truth as a typical announcement by the Bush administration – which is to say, it’s lies and deception intended to create fear.

Here’s a good discussion of this alleged threat in particular, as well as a general discussion of what the antivirus vendors are up to when they beat the drums about ever more malevolent viruses.

”McAfee and Symantec (and all the other AV vendors out there) are waging a PR war to “discover” ever more news-worthy viruses to defend against. To get maximum coverage, your new virus needs to do something unique or different — make your computer turn green, or infect something previously uninfectable, or whatever it might be. Compare this to Klez, a very basic virus similar in most ways to viruses that have gone before, which is still out there looting and pillaging tens of thousands of computers every day, but isn’t ideal for AV vendors because they don’t have a monopoly on the cure.

“The press is catching on, to some tiny extent at least, that most virus alerts are fictitious and just designed to drum up business for the vendors. But it’s far easier to repurpose a vendor’s press release and call it a story than to dig into real threats that exist on the Internet, and the causes of those threats.”

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