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    Avril: She's Hot, She's a Virus

    The cyber-geeks have spoken: Avril Lavigne is "It."

    The Canadian teen, tapped last week with five Grammy nominations for her debut album, Let Go, has been immortalized with her very own computer virus.

    Ah, the perks of fame.

    The so-called Avril email virus, which tries to lure users into opening its infected attachment by promising pictures of the popster, went into circulation shortly after the Grammy nominations were announced. According to a leading Internet and computer security firm, the timing was not coincidental.

    "This is the cyber world's way of saying she's the 'It' girl of the moment," says Andrea Iraheta, spokeswoman for McAfee Security.

    In becoming the namesake of her very own computer bug, the 18-year-old Lavigne follows in the foot (and dance) steps of Britney Spears, Shakira, former President Clinton and tennis star Anna Kournikova.

    "It's almost a form of flattery. I think you see viruses when a certain person's popularity is at its height," says Iraheta.

    Since Let Go was released last June, Lavigne has sold 4 million albums, scored two Top 10 hits ("Complicated," "Sk8er Boi") and guested on Saturday Night Live. Come Grammy night in February, she'll vie for top honors as Best New Artist and Best Song ("Complicated").

    Lavigne's label, Arista Records, said Monday that while it was aware of the virus (it had received copies), it didn't know if its chart-topping skate-punk was up on her latest career achievement.

    For the sake of hard drives everywhere, computer users best hope Lavigne doesn't prove as popular in the virus world as she is in the music world. Iraheta says among celeb-named viruses, Kournikova's was the most pervasive. That fast-moving bug wormed its way into email accounts worldwide in February 2001.

    Like the Avril virus, the Kournikova virus presented itself as a picture download. But instead getting a glossy of the much-downloaded athlete, users had their Microsoft Outlook address books raided.

    Unlike the Avril virus, the Kournikova virus was relatively harmless. Users who click on the Avril attachment run the risk of having passwords stolen and their anti-virus software disabled, according to McAfee.

    Subject lines to beware of include: "Fw: Avril Lavigne--CHART ATTACK!," and, "Fwd: Re: Have U requested Avril Lavigne bio?" The infected attachments may be labeled, "ALavigne.exe," "AvrilLavigne.exe," or "AvrilSmiles.exe." (For more info on the Avril virus, see McAfee's Website.)

    The use of Lavigne's moniker in order to encourage unsuspecting, and unwise, clicks is called "social engineering," Iraheta says. Virus writers want names, popular ones, that are irresistible to the cyber masses. (This would explain the absence of the Jamie Farr virus.)

    The best way to avoid the Avril virus? The best way to avoid any virus. Don't open, or download, unsolicited attachments. Even if you think Avril Lavigne is really cool.

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