Google's Pac-Man triggers malware fears

Homage to 1980 video game freaks out Firefox users

Google's celebration of the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man last week flooded Mozilla's Firefox support forum with complaints about siren sounds and offbeat music.

Others asked security vendors if they'd been infected with a virus.

On Friday, Google posted a JavaScript-based version of Pac-Man on its main search page as an homage to the 1980 video game, the latest example of what the company terms "doodles," which are usually static images that celebrate "on this day" events.

But the game freaked out some Firefox users, said James Socol, a Web development engineer at Mozilla.

"Unfortunately, in the initial release [of the game], [the Pac-Man] sounds started playing automatically -- an oversight or an homage to , I guess," said Socol on his blog today. "Even if Google was open in a background tab or window, or in a hidden iframe created by an add-on, the Pac Man music and sound effects would start. And that confused some people."

So many, in fact, heard the sounds that when they didn't find an explanation on Mozilla's support site , they posted enough questions on the support forum to slow the company's database server to a crawl.

"The pounding we took on the forums also caused replication on our slave databases to fall behind by as much as 1.25 hours, so even when we wrote an article about the noises, it didn't show up for most people," Socal added.

"We just got DDOSed by Pac-Man," Socal said another Mozilla engineer quipped, referring to a distributed denial-of-service attack, the malicious assaults that attempt to bring down a Web site.

Several Firefox users reported that they were able to eliminate the background sounds by disabling or removing the CoolPreviews add-on, which lets users preview links and media content without abandoning the active page.

Other users spooked by the background sounds wondered whether they had been nailed by malware.

"We had a new kind of 'virus' attack today that people were calling in about," said Mike Williams, a support manager with Clearwater, Fla.-based Sunbelt Software. "A few people, including an admin[istrator], called in thinking they had virus with the sound of a siren in the background of their Web browser."

The noise, of course, came from Google's Pac-Man, noted Sunbelt CEO Alex Eckelberry .

Google has removed the Pac-Man doodle from its home page and placed it on a peripheral part of its site . Automatic game sounds have since been disabled; they now begin to play only after the user clicks on the "Insert Coin" button.

Pac-Man was first released on May 22, 1980, by Japanese company Namco, and appeared in the U.S. later that year on arcade machines made by Midway.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GooglePac-Man

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?