June 20, 2011 -- The website BeautifulPeople.com -- designed for people who like mirrors -- claims to have booted 30,000 members who weren't pretty enough or handsome enough to meet their standards.
The site claims that the substandard lookers snuck onto the site's rolls with the help of a online virus dubbed Shrek, named after the good-hearted but unsightly ogre of the same name.
"Obviously this is a bitter pill to swallow so we've done everything we can do minimize damage," said Greg Hodge, the managing director of BeautifulPeople.com.
Members are voted onto the site by a majority vote from current members of the opposite sex, what Hodge calls a "purely democratic system" designed to ensure a community of fellow good-lookers.
But last month, the "Shrek" virus, coined after the ugly cartoon character who valued inner-beauty, compromised the rating system allowing even those who received a majority of negative votes to join the site.
The result: 35,000 additional applicants were mistakenly accepted onto the site. All 35,000 were later taken off the site to await a re-vote once the virus was identified. Of the 30,000 who were voted off, the largest number of rejects, 11,924, came from the U.S. Britain followed at a distant second with 3,156 rejections.
According to BeautifulPeople.com, status reports indicating a 100 percent acceptance rate combined with a flood of email complaints from members about slipping standards alerted the site directors that something had gone awry.
"We got suspicious when tens of thousands of new members were accepted over a six-week period, many of whom were no oil painting," Hodge said.
BeautifulPeople.com Claims to Have Booted 30,000 "Ugly" People
The company originally thought that the "Shrek" virus was blowback from one of its 5.5 million previously rejected users. But after a closer look, in-house technicians realized that it was most likely an inside job by a former employee.
Some wonder if this announcement is a publicity stunt by BeautifulPeople.com to bring attention to the site, as it did last January. At the start of 2010, BeautifulPeople.com dropped 5,000 members when they appeared too heavy in the post-christmas season.
"No one in the anti-virus business has seen this malware or heard of anything like it before," said Graham Cluley, senior techology consultant at Sophos, a security firm based in Britain.
"I could imagine that hackers might want to break into BeautifulPeople's servers to steal information about users as that data would be worth something financially, (but) they say that the virus was very focused on just the site's application process, and nothing else was affected," Cluley said.
While Hodge admits that "we can get a little sensationalist with our press releases," he insisted that the virus is "absolutely not a publicity stunt."
Rejected members have all been refunded -- to the upside of $100,000 total since last week.
The site has also set up a hotline to help recently booted applicants deal with the rejection and can give tips for those wishing to re-apply. So far, only about 400 of those have called the helpline.
This morning, a new site with updated security was announced to safeguard against future cases of a virus attack. Hodge said, "The system is in full working order and all of our members can rest assured that their votes will continue to count in keeping their community as they want it: beautiful."
In addition, a team of "beauty police" from around the world have been recruited to safeguard against future infiltrators who do not meet the site's standards.
Currently, BeautifulPeople.com acknowledges itself as the largest community of attractive people in the world. Despite the recent rejections, the site has over 700,000 members worldwide.