Word Crunchers, Etc.

Virus Hoaxes

Vicky Vickers

Have you ever received an e-mail containing information similar to the following?

(snip) "This is an urgent virus update please read in full and forward to everyone on your contact list. Please, send this information to every person in your address book. (snip) This information was published yesterday in the CNN web site. This is a very dangerous virus. To this date, there is no known anti virus program for this particular virus. Please, forward this information to your friends, so that they will be on the alert.

"Also check the list below, sent by IBM, with the names of some e-mails that, if received, should not be opened and must be deleted immediately because they contain attached viruses. This way your computer will be safe.(snip)

"Virus warning announced by Microsoft: there is a virus out now being sent to people via e-mail. it is considered the A.I.D.S. virus of computers. it will destroy your memory, sound card and speakers, your drive and it will infect your mouse or pointing devices as well as your keyboards, making it so that you can't type and it will not register on the screen. it self-terminates only after it eats 5 mb of hard drive space and will delete all programs. it will come via e-mail. (snip) Delete it!!!!!!!!!!!! immediately!! It will basically render your computer useless. (snip) forward this letter out to as many people as you can. this is a new, very malicious virus and not many people know about it. This information was announced yesterday morning from Microsoft." (snip)

Believe it or not, all the above information (and much more) was contained in a single e-mail message I received recently. It was warning of multiple "new" viruses which an unwary computer user should worry about. About half of it was in capital letters (thank goodness for Spell Tools "lowercase" feature or I would have had to retype most of it). I snipped out at least half the message, however, the rest of the message contained more of the same hype, in more gory detail.

ANY virus warning that is so full of hype and includes "send this everyone on your e-mail list" is a hoax. The only virus involved is the message itself which keeps unnecessarily filling people's e-mail boxes over and over again for years. And the only way it is spread is by people willingly sending it to friends who send it to friends who send it to friends, ad infinitum. If you receive one of these virus messages, wait a few years (or maybe even months) and you will probably receive it again.

I hate to see these messages being passed around by innocent people. It's very embarrassing when someone points out to you that the message is a hoax. If you don't want to be embarrassed, check a virus message out first on the Internet to make sure it isn't a hoax before forwarding it to all your friends, or even worse to your business associates.

Check out and bookmark the sites below, then the next time someone sends you a hoax message, you can education them about identifying hoaxes so they won't be embarrassed again.

Symantic Security Updates (list of hoax viruses)www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html
F-Secure: Security Information Centre (hoax warnings)www.datafellows.com/virus-info/hoax
Truth About Computer Virus Myths & Hoaxeswww.vmyths.com
The AFU and Urban Legends Archivewww.urbanlegends.com
Virus Information Library - Virus Hoaxesvil.mcafee.com/hoax.asp?
Hoax and Chain Letter Databaseswww.cert.org/other_sources/viruses.html#ii
Sophos Virus Hoaxes and Scareswww.sophos.com/virusinfo/hoaxes/

Acknowledgements
This article was originally published in the February 2001 issue of the Victoria Macintosh Users Group's monthly newsletter "MACtalk" in Vicky's column "VMUG On-Line".

Vicky Vickers is the owner of Word Crunchers, Etc. which specializes in website design and HTML training. She is a past-president (1994-6) and former webmaster (1995-8) of Victoria Macintosh Users Group (VMUG). She also founded and was the first president (1996) of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria (WEAV).

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Vicky Vickers, Word Crunchers, Etc.
3290 Shelley Street, Victoria, BC, V8P 4A5
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